Visalicious.

I like travel.  I especially like international travel.  Not because I’m running away from people in the US (what’s not to love here?) or because I’m in search of something better.  I just think it’s nice to get out once and awhile – way out.  Plus, now a good contingent of my friends are living in different countries, so seeing them means international travel.

The most major issue I have with travel (besides layovers and annoying travelers) is the whole visa thing.  Sure, I get customs, and regulation of imports and exports, and trade, and taxes and all.  It makes sense – we’ve got people and goods going back and forth between different governments with different standards and different fees, so there has to be some sort of regulating body between them.  But visas?  What’s the point?  To annoy me with paying fees, getting tangled in red tape, and publishing various personal details (such as my mother’s maiden name and my health conditions)?  Ok, maybe China and India need to employ as many people as possible through bureaucratic nonsense.  Still, they aren’t getting more money constant delays and annoying their potential visitors.  Please, just streamline the process and make us pay more.  I wouldn’t mind.  Really.

As an AA (Admin. Assist.), I have full responsibility to secure visas for a variety of countries for a variety of people.  It’s generally one of the more frustrating portions of my job (other than talking to people on the phone).  Part of this is due to the fact that my employers always apply later than they should.  Another part is that the visa service we’ve been using is somewhat uncommunicative.  If there’s a problem or they need more information, they generally don’t call – they just wait until we are annoyed with the delay in service and let us know about the problem when we call in frustration.  Given that I already don’t like talking to people on the phone, this does not put me in the best frame of mind.   Despite the fact that I’ve gotten into the habit of checking up with them every single day of the application process, I really don’t want to and don’t think I should have to.

Enter the new visa service I have been testing out, CIBT.  First off, most of their visa applications  can be done online, meaning I don’t have to use a typewriter or rely on my own slovenly illegible handwriting for applications.  Second, once they receive the application, I can check on its status online, without talking to a single person.  Third, they are genuinely helpful when you have questions.  This includes actually responding to phone messages or emails you might leave.  All I can say is ‘wow’.

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Goodbye comics, hello U.S. of A.

Some of you may have read my former postings about TEAL (Typo Eradication Advancement League). Today, at the start of Jeff’s momentous journey across the contiguous United States correcting errors as he finds them, I am glad to announce the website is up! You will also notice I’ve updated my blogroll with the current TEAL blog, as opposed to Jeff’s old one. I will be sad to see the comics and some of that olde-tyme humor disappear. However, in order to make space (and spare time) for his momentous journey, some of Jeff’s pursuits must fall by the wayside. Still, let’s take a moment for nostalgia. Sigh.

But there is a new path to tread, a new life to be led. And for that, I say good luck to Jeff and companions on his several-month quest. Adieu, adieu, parting is such sweet sorrow.

I want to go to China!

So, in an unceasing search to find myself cheap airline tickets for May of 08, I have been visiting one of my favorite sites, Kayak. To those of you unfamiliar with this wonderful tool, I want you to think back to the early days of online discount airfare. The common TV viewer was bombarded with ads for priceline, travelocity, orbitz, and other related sites. And while most of them were pretty good at finding you the best price, there were drawbacks.  There were always associated fees that didn’t register until you actually purchased the tickets.  Plus a certain ticket price was never locked in, and thus that low price could be lost as tickets are sold out from moment to moment.  In addition, the multiple day features were often unwieldy to use.

Kayak trumps and avoids all of that.  Fees are included in the prices they list, and even international travel allows  options to search prices for a range of dates.  In addition, kayak will automatically search other discount travel sites for the same travel times, so you get multiple searches in different windows just by entering it once.  Other features make it much more operable as well.  The chart tab allows you to view the rates of a 31 day range of departure dates, listing both the average lowest fare found, and the absolute best fare found.  That way I can find the best travel time not only within a week’s time, but also across a span of weeks.  Sliders and checkboxes along the left also allow specific airlines to be included and a specific and narrow departure or arrival time to be searched for.

Not that there aren’t drawbacks.  Kayak doesn’t directly sell the tickets, so a sell-out of a certain price is still possible.  In addition, some airlines don’t ally kayak to list their flights, most notably Southwest and JetBlue.  But to me and my pocketbook, that’s a small price to pay – if I’m going somewhere southwest, I can always search their site directly.  Same goes for jet blue.  In fact, it’s almost worth all the pandas in China.

Ultimately, however, even Kayak was not able to find me a fare to the southern portion of China in May.  I am hastily searching for other times now, possibly in early March.  Be advised – I may be coming to an airport near you!

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