Planes, Trains, and…Hotels

 “Where am I going? The ring-doves coo: We do have beautiful things to do.”               – Spring Morning by A.A. Milne

Yes, beautiful things. Important things. Like bringing our baby into this world. And to do so, we just happen to need passports. Except his is expired and mine is under my former/single name. Ah, logistics. Given that we still had 5 months to get it done at the time, we delayed attending to our travel docs since the US system conveniently decided to crash a few weeks ago. Now, however, it’s back up and – hopefully – the minions have had enough time to start chipping away at the backlog. After checking the US Passports & International Travel website, I found that my renewal is going to be fairly easy. Since my passport doesn’t expire until 2015, I just need to pop into a nearby USPS to get my photo taken and mail 2 pictures, my $110 fee, a filled out form DS-82, my current passport, and certified copies of my marriage certificate (for the name change) to Philadelphia.

As his is expired (and currently lost somewhere in the house after a couple of moves), the hubs has to do a face-to-face application. He needed to fill out a form DS-11 and make an appointment with our local USPS. There, he will get his loveable mug photographed, pay the fee (also $110), and submit his form along with an original birth certificate. Easy peasy. Note: If you are going for your first passport, or need your birth certificate because your current passport is expired/lost, you will need to contact the County Clerk’s Office where you were born if you don’t have a copy with a raised seal. You should be able to just Google the contact information. For example, for my husband, I typed in “order birth certificate Saginaw, MI” and the instructions popped up with the first link.

With passports in the works, it has been time to get into the framework of planning our trip: booking airfare and hotels. After spending the last month and a half checking fares, I decided to go with Expedia, as I have used them many times before. For the most part, all of the sites I checked in with carried roughly the same prices. You can check:

  • Kayak
  • Expedia
  • Priceline
  • Travelocity (there are also great reviews of hotels on this site)
  • Directly with the airline you would like to fly. After reading reviews and remembering my own experiences, I would never in a million years recommend United, but British Airways and Lufthansa are two of the airlines I saw consistently popping up with good prices/flight schedules. I did see flights from Swiss Air as well, but did not really investigate them. As a side note, Lufthansa has a student fare option called Generation Fly; so if you have a .edu email account, you can register with them and receive discounted airfare. I didn’t find this out until after I had booked with Expedia (I don’t know why I keep looking even after I book, but I do. Lucky for you!), but I could have saved $130 on our flight had I known about it. Note: my husband is 34, but the site still registered him/considered him eligible because he has a current .edu email account.

In the end, we picked up flights with one stop each way for $2655 on Lufthansa roundtrip from Denver. If you’re booking a few months out, don’t be afraid to keep searching over a period of a few weeks if you don’t see the fare you like (If you’re on a tight turnaround, that’s definitely not the way to go, however!). Fares ranged between $2350 to $3200 during my search period (unfortunately, I left my brain – and my wallet – at home the day they dipped down to the low point, but I still managed to book at the equilibrium price by waiting an additional week.). I booked the 9-hour flight over so that we would leave in the late afternoon, be able to take NyQuil and sleep for the flight duration, and land (somewhat) well-slept and refreshed in Frankfurt in the morning before hopping on to Prague. I tried to do the same on the way back, but no such luck. In any case, advise I picked up from travel sites with regard to looking for fares includes:

  • Clear your cookies often for the travel sites (I guess they like to recognize you’ve been there and jack up prices. I actually had Expedia raise fares by a total of $400 between selecting flights and checking out at one point. I promptly canceled the transaction, cleared/closed the browser, and waited a couple of days before making the final booking. F you, airlines!).
  • Book on Tuesdays. I also talked to a couple of friends who swear by this method to get cheaper fares, but it didn’t pan out for me. Advise on timing ranged from calling the airline directly at 1 a.m. between Mon/Tues (local time at their hub) to “it works any time during the day.” Doesn’t hurt to check it out.

As for trains, they can’t be booked this far out. I can’t even see timetables at the moment, so I will post more specific information when I can. (Timetables can be looked up at IDOS (search Praha hl.n to Brno, direct connections only. Avoid “R” trains, as they are slow.), and tickets can either be purchased in person once you’re in Czech, or at the ÖBB Travel Portal. People on travel forums have advised staying away from Rail Europe, as they are quite pricey.)

And last on our skeleton booking for travel: hotels. Hubs and I decided to play it safe and stay at the Prague Airport Courtyard Marriott when arriving in country and also when leaving. It’s easy access (walking distance to the terminal) when we are just arriving/getting ready to leave, as I’m sure I will not want a lot of fuss in either instance. For our stay in Brno during treatment, we will be at the Grandhotel Brno, as it has easy access to the train station, trams, and the Reprofit clinic. As you may have noticed, while we are technically on an “IVF Vacation,” I am trying my hardest to minimize stress and shoot for “easy,” because travel itself stresses me out a little bit. This is also the reason we have decided to stay in Brno and take day trips to the surrounding areas during embryo cultivation, instead of hopping multiple trains to Vienna or Prague.

In any case, you can look up other hotels at any one of the sites I listed above for airfare, but I would highly recommend checking out Booking.com first. It’s simple to use, and I was able to book our room without having to pay for the whole stay upfront.

While I didn’t research many hotels in Prague, there are several options for staying in Brno, ranging from hotels to mini apartments. As mentioned above, Tripadvisor has comprehensive reviews from guests:

 

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