the weekend is here…

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…but I’ll be working my way through it to try to complete a video project before I go on vacation next week. I’m heading first to Ethiopia, then to Tanzania, and then flying home by way of South Africa. The southern detour was a last-minute addition, which happened after I booked the first two legs of my trip as one-way tickets using my United miles (at 17,500 miles each), only to realize right before I booked the final homebound journey that I could have worked the system much better.

This New York Times article alerted me to the fact that when you book an international round-trip ticket with United miles, you are allowed to add in one stopover of any length AND two open jaws (meaning the destination or the origin is not the same in both directions), all for the same number of miles as a standard round-trip ticket. So, had I booked my three tickets as one round-trip instead, I could have spent only 35,000 miles to go from Dakar to Addis, Addis to Kilimanjaro, and Dar es Salaam to Dakar.

I tried changing my ticket retroactively but some of the dates were no longer available. Since that meant I was looking at spending an additional 17,500 unnecessary miles to get home, I decided I better make those miles go further than 35,000 would have. After hours of plugging in a million different combinations of dates and destinations unsuccessfully, I finally found one that worked:

I changed my one-way Dakar to Addis ticket into a round-trip (I had decided to fly there one day earlier so I would have paid a change fee in any case).

I left the Addis to Kilimanjaro ticket alone as a one-way ticket.

For the return portion of the round-trip ticket, I booked an open jaw from Dar es Salaam to Dakar, with a five-day stopover in Johannesburg en route. (I first figured out where all the possible stopovers were by identifying the overlapping cities in two Google searches: “direct flights from Dar es Salaam” and “direct flights to Dakar.” Then I picked the one that was most attractive to me – albeit thousands of miles out of the way.)

Total cost: 52,500 miles, the $75 change fee, and maybe $200 in taxes – a teeny tiny price to pay for a 3-country tour across Africa.

I spelled this all out as a PSA of sorts. Before you book your next trip with miles, I would encourage you to do the due diligence I did not and make sure you are getting the absolute most out of them that you can.

That said, I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa so I have no regrets about the way this turned out. I am so, so psyched for my upcoming adventures… but have yet to plan any of the South African portion, so I have to get to work on that this weekend in between actual work.

Enjoy your weekends! Here are some relevant reads and videos that I found interesting this week:

American politicians who speak Spanish.

Can you guess what the most metal word in the English language is?

A 17th century constructed language divided everything in the universe into 40 categories.

A life is a life, wherever and whenever it is cut short.” The devastating human toll of terrorism.

How colorful is your language?

The grief that white Americans can’t share.

We need a language and a system to understand spin.

P.S. I would gratefully welcome tips on: reliable Ethiopian car hire companies; places to eat in Zanzibar; where to stay along the northern loop in Ethiopia, in Addis, and in Cape Town; and the best things to see and do if you’ve only got five days in South Africa.

[Photo: courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC. Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC.]

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