We picked South Africa for our 25th Anniversary Trip/present because it had a lot of different things to see (coast, wine country, wildlife, different cultures). We originally were planning our trip in early 2018 we had planned to go around the time of our anniversary in June, but when I contacted a friend from there, they explained that Cape Town would be grey and chilly in the middle of its winter. Additionally, Cape Town was in a historic drought and it was feared that by June they would hit Day Zero and literally be out of water. Plus my proposal at work was deferred, so settled on moving our to October – leaving the day after the proposal due. Of course, once the trip was booked, my proposal due date moved a couple of more times so I did have to spend some work time, but not as much as prior trips.
Original plan was fly to Cape Town and go to a safari in western South Africa, but after some research, the better safaris were on the eastern side of the country so we would need to fly into Cape Town and out of Johannesburg. Because of the security issues in Johannesburg and the desire to get a good safari experience, we did go through an agent for that part of the trip to arrange the lodge and transport while the rest of the trip was AirBNB and Uber.
Looked at 4 flight options (per ticket):
• British Airways ($0 cost, 90,000 miles, $900 taxes, 22 hours flight time outbound)
• Emirates ($1,250 cost, 25 hours flight time) – with stopover in Dubai on return
• South African Airways ($2,000, 20 hours flight time) – direct flight with a stop in western Africa
• Ethiopian Airways ($1,500, 22 hours flight time) – heard later that in was a great flight on a 787.
Picked Emirates as the flight from Dulles to Dubai on a A-380 and we were able to reserve aisle and window seats and luckily we had an empty middle seat both ways. The short flight (9 hrs) from Dubai to Cape Town we had our own 2 seat row on a 777. Worked good as we had no jet lag going and coming back with the stopover in Dubai had some minor issues.
After we booked the initial flights, Alex suggested that we add Victoria Falls – it cut a day off the safari and a day off Cape Town. It was well worth it and the additional cost for the extra flight leg was almost offset by the savings of one less safari day. Safari days were about 2.5 times as much as Cape Town or Victoria Falls days. Dubai days were expensive as well – nothing cheap there!
In the map, the red is from Dubai – Cape Town and from Johannesburg to Dubai and the black lines are the flights within Africa from Cape Town – Victoria Falls – Johannesburg. The white arrows are the car trip from Johannesburg – Pilanesberg.
Because of the security issues and on three of my last four major trips I have major issues with money, between lost ATM cards and just inability to find an ATM machine or credit card machine, so I had Plan A, B, C, & D in place and actually brought US Dollars as well (usually I don’t) which ended up being very important as we lost access to get cash. But didn’t plan for ATM card skimming and draining my US bank account….
I read Long Walk to Freedom in school, and in preparation for the trip I listened to about half of the book on tape and watched movie on plane ride over which was great preparation. Even if you aren’t going to South Africa, I recommend it (the one with Idris Elba).