Posted by: gabriellereneeleblanc | May 17, 2012

Event Planning, International!

Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. Carnival in Venice.

A special kind of patience is necessary to survive touring a city in an “event season”. Tourists flock from every corner of the globe to enjoy the festivities, ready and willing to spend their savings on kitschy collectables and mind-altering substances—the local purveyors of which are happily prepared to gouge each and every one of them out of every penny.

This is the dark side of traveling: tourism at its most profitable! Every accommodation hikes up their rates, merchants switch out their price stickers accordingly, and—my god!—how the bars and restaurants rake it in!

That being said, if one really wishes to experience a “world event” such as these, there are ways to do so and still manage to avoid filing for bankruptcy in the aftermath. For example, I suggest giving yourself about a year in advance to begin planning. This is not an extreme suggestion.

Take a look at the discount site Kayak.com: round-trip coach tickets from NYC to NOLA during Mardi Gras week are already close to the $400 mark, and that’s 9 months out! Meanwhile, the cheapest 3 star hotel within the city proper is listed at $158/night. These prices will only go up and availabilities fill up fast.

In the case of Mardi Gras, domestic tourists at least have the option of driving in or renting a car. With transport, a great deal of money and hassle can be spared by staying outside of the city and commuting in. But in Italy or Scotland, do you really want the bother of having to navigate foreign roads and vehicles in an attempt to save on accommodations? The dollar-to-pound exchange being what it is, it’s just as likely to cost you the same amount, if not more.

As for me, I generally prefer to avoid en mass migrations and book my travels accordingly. (It’s not necessary to travel internationally to visit over-priced, over-exposed tourist traps: Americans can always hike down to Orlando!) It’s my aspiration to see the world and experience cultures as they truly are…and, as always, to do so on a rather severe budget. In this, the tourist seasons are my ally.

The laws of physics do apply to booking rates. What goes up must, inevitably, come down—it’s a wonderful thing. Book your vacations just before or after major events and you’ll find yourself enjoying just the same weather and lovely lands at a fraction of the cost. As an added bonus, you’ll find interacting with the locals a much more pleasant experience when you’re seen as an individual rather than one in a sea of strange faces.

My up-coming trip to Edinburgh this summer is for the whole of July: I’ll be leaving the country just as the Fringe is about to begin. Would I like to stay for the festival? Absolutely! It’s an experience that is very high on my bucket list: but for the price of a week during festival season I can stay a full month and truly absorb the charms of a new country. I’m planning excursions to Loch Ness and Inverness: trips that would not be possible in August. Instead of seeing an amateur production of Macbeth, I’m going to visit the actual site of inspiration at Cawdor Castle. Not too shabby, if you ask me.

Of course, there is one hiccup in my carefully laid plans: a catastrophe I completely failed to consider in the early stages of booking, and one I’m now doomed to deal with.

We all make mistakes, guys, and boy did I make a big one.

You see, the least-expensive direct flights from NYC to Western Europe for American Airlines is from JFK to Heathrow. Loving London as I do, I’ve made it my habit to establish a “home base” there. I usually fly in, spend a bit of time, then take a train, bus, or ferry to my next destination. (These alternatives to air-travel are one of the greatest assets of Europe and one I make certain to take full advantage of. They take a little more time, but they’re a great way to take in the scenery and—the best part!—no airport security, lay-overs, electronic device regulations, etc. Trains rule!)

So, according to my own guidelines, I booked my flight weeks ago to take me in and out of Heathrow, allowing me a few extra days after Edinburgh to stay in my beloved London: I thought I’d stay in my usual St. Christopher’s hostel, take in a show at The Globe, etc. A great plan, ne?

I forgot about The Olympics.

Of all the international events, festivals, and conventions to schedule around and avoid, the Summer Olympic Games is #1. It’s a logistical nightmare of epic proportions: cities experience a complete over-haul in order to accommodate them: new hotels are opened, public transit goes under construction, and don’t even get me started on the security forces involved!

Certain residents of London have been given notice by the government that missiles are to be affixed to their rooftops for the duration of the games—MISSELS! With conditions in the Middle East being what they are, mounting tensions throughout the whole of Europe between militant sects of all religious and political affiliations, and the cost of a churro at London Cross station, there is no way in hell you’ll find this little American in London this Summer!

I already dislike The Olympics. Their boring broadcasts monopolize television and media for months and, despite the supposed “goodwill” origins, I really can’t see them as anything more than an exacerbated measuring-contest for countries in conflict. (Though I do like to hear of victories for smaller, poorer countries: Let’s Go, Republic of Sierra Leone! Woot!)

I’m trying to decide on a substitute excursion to fill the void of London Towne. Perhaps I’ll spend a few days in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of The Bard. Or maybe I’d be better served staying for a time in Glasgow, or trekking out to the Scottish coast.

I’m open to suggestions, if y’all have any to offer. Anything to avoid the dreaded Games.

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