We wanted to arrive in South Africa adjusted to the time change and ready to enjoy in amazing scenery, wildlife and people we were about to experience. We flew Delta, some of us using miles, and as a direct flight can be grueling journey, I want to share how we did it with an overnight layover in Europe and dealt with what could have been a trip changing weather issue along the way. Before much more discussion, other airlines fly direct from the US to JNB, and it's up to the traveler to decide if anything I'm about to say applies to their travel and relationship with an airline. I just don't think that a daytime departure from the US gives travelers much rest. I hope other travelers will share how they planned their trips from various destinations
We were able to book our flights on a single ticket from JFK to JNB with an overnight layover in Amsterdam, leaving late in the evening on our second day from AMS with a connection in CDG. The JFK departure was late in the evening. This itinerary gave us a little "Netherlands" before we journeyed on, and we made our reservations over the phone, so that might be what it takes. In spite of our weather glitch in Europe (AMS closed for the day due to a stellar fog), I think it would have been okay for us to book this on two tickets...read on. We booked what was available to us on miles and good fares for those of us who were paying for our tickets.
Here's our background and why we looked for this itinerary: I once sat on the tarmac at JFK with my husband watching a SAA flight leaving for Africa, and he broke out in a sweat. He has made this flight several times on business, and he said, "Do you know what those people are about to go through." That's why we looked for other bookings. From my experience on the direct flight of this duration, you want to leave from whatever country you are traveling late at night. Your want to crash and most direct flights from the US don't let you do this, but flights to Europe do.
After arriving in J'burg, we spent the night at Protea's "Fire and Ice" hotel in Melrose Arch. This is a gated community with lovely restaurants and shops, and we really enjoyed the Protea's eclectic, quirky decor, it's restful and upgraded bedding, and the people who were on the spot as far as service. We scheduled the overnight because it was something we wanted to do and we were flying the next day on South African Airways to Hoedspruit. SAA is not a Delta partner so we couldn't add this to our single ticket, but we weren't going to be out if we missed our flight to Hoedspruit. SAA offers levels of tickets that include refundable fares. We booked those,and were glad that we did when one member of our party had to cancel. Most airlines don't offer this option unless you are a frequent flier. BTW, SAA is now offering a direct flight from Cape Town to Hoedspruit, so whatever I say here applies to travel from the US to CT.
For our flights home, we booked a direct flights from JNB to ATL because this flight was direct and our sleep time would be interrupted. On the trip over, that rest, however, would not have put us on the go once we arrived in South Africa. It's a long,cramped flight and while we could deal with it on our way home, it's not what we wanted before safari. On the way home, my daughter lives in NYC and her flight to JFK would have meant a midway - middle of sleep - stop in Frankfurt, if I remember the layover correctly. By changing her final stop to LGA, she got a single ticket booking to NYC throught ATL without this mid-flight stop. As I've said, on a 16 hour flight, sleep time is important.
Here's what was a unique glitch in our travel that most travelers may not encounter but should know how to handle: We awoke in Amsterdam to an epic fog that closed the airport. On a one week trip, it's the break before arriving for a safari that I'm supporting, and these were unusual circumstances...it made international news. We had a lot of money invested in our trip, and our losses and adjustments would have been much more than the cost of our train tickets. We were happy that, thanks to my time on TA, we knew what to do. Outside the season when we were traveling, there might not have been any problem, but we traveled with a back up planned that worked. When we checked "airport conditions" online, the report was that this could last all day. Our connection was in for an 11:30 PM flight out of CDG and we had time to deal with the situation. We called the airline, changed our tickets, and booked a train from Paris, in that order. As long as you are traveling within the AMS/CDG/Brussels triangle, your airports are within a few hours by train from each other. Go to Thaylys for that information.
Travel is often about the best laid plans going awry and building in the cushions (overnights in Amsterdam to Johannesburg before our safari and a late night out of CDG) and back up plans (a train from Amsterdam to Paris). We are still glad that we did not arrive in Kruger jet lagged!, and ee made it, rested and ready for our amazing safari!
Thank you for indulging me. Our trip worked..Edited: 05 December 2011, 03:10