Past Success – New York to South Africa for $330 roundtrip
I remember it vividly. It was Christmas Morning 2014. I woke up around 6am and while in bed, looked at Twitter. I started seeing several bloggers and sites I follow discuss an Etihad “mistake fare” or “crazy sale.” A mistake fare is when airlines misprice flights. I browsed some of the details and saw some interesting flights that might work.
After browsing twitter for a few moments, I got out of bed and went to our living room with my laptop in hand. I started pulling up the flight details that had been discussed online. Out of the various options I saw (Abu Dhabi, Delhi, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Manila or Seychelles) Johannesburg really intrigued us. The price I found was $330 roundtrip from JFK in April. It was perfect timing as well, as it was at the end of April when we would already be in Washington DC for a work trade show. Thus, our only additional cost was to get from Washington DC to New York.
So even though I found cheap flights, that didn’t mean we could immediately say yes to the trip. Thankfully, most online travel agencies (OTA) like Priceline give you 24 hours to cancel. At this point of the experience, I woke up Missy. I said, “Good morning. Want to go to Africa?” She said, “what do you mean?” I filled her in on the details while making coffee, and then we sat down to look at the dates. We ended up booking about 3 itineraries of various lengths as we didn’t know how long we would need. For the rest of the day we began investigating South Africa, and how long our trip should be, where we would go, and of course, if it fit in our budget. After all our research, we concluded that… YES, the trip would fit in our budget. We cancelled the 2 extra itineraries and had our flights booked.
When dealing with mistake fares, rule #1 is Book Now and Think Later. Rule #2 is: Do not make non-refundable plans until the airline acknowledges that they will honor the fare. While the DOT says that airlines must refund you for non-refundable arrangements associated with a fare they do not honor, why get into that sticky mess.
On Dec 29th, the airline acknowledged that they would honor the fare. We began booking our accommodations for our trip. We ended up using Wild Wings Safaris. They were amazing. They listened to what we wanted and sent us the various options to accomplish that. After going through a few emails back and forth, we finally reached out finalized itinerary.
We landed in South Africa on a Friday afternoon. We had rented a camera and lens for our safari and the camera company met us at our hotel for dropoff. The next day we took a small flight to Skukuza which would allow us to avoid the 5-7 hour drive to Kruger National Park. Our safari guide met us at the airport and took us to our lodging for the evening. Along the way, we were already able to see wildlife. Sunday was a full day in Kruger National park. On Monday we had a little safari in the morning and then were taken to the Kruger Park gate to meet our driver to take us to the Inyati lodge. Inyati lodge was on a private reserve that is still part of Kruger. We settled in to our room, and that evening took our first safari ride. This was totally different than going through Kruger. Our safari jeep was driving on the dirt path, and then our guide got a call about a nearby leopard. They started driving over bushes and fallen trees to get there. In Kruger, you have to stay on the road… AT ALL TIMES. This was completely opposite. We enjoyed our first safari drive at Inyati immensely. Upon return we had a very enjoyable dinner. Tuesday and Wednesday were full days with two safari drives each day and we completed our quest to see the Big 5. On Thursday morning we took off early to the Nelspruit airport for a 50 minute flight back to Johannesburg. The lodge even packed us a lunch as we would miss breakfast that day. Upon arrival in Johannesburg we were able to return our camera and visit another site in the city we wanted to see. We then headed back to the airport for our 6:55pm flight out of the country.
If it wasn’t for this mistake fare we still would have gone to South Africa… at some point. This cheap deal allowed us to cross this off our bucket list way sooner than expected. We had an amazing time and can’t wait to go again. Next time we will probably just go to a Private Lodge and not do Kruger National Park. We will also add several days in Cape Town and add a trip to see Victoria Falls. While not on our immediate radar, you never know when a mistake fare will pop up to take advantage of.