Wadi Rum landscape

Planning: Like Juggling Live Fish

posted in: Israel-Plus 2022, Plans | 2

Planning my upcoming trip to Turkey, Ethiopia, Israel, and Jordan has become a huge challenge. And considering I’m going on a tour, that’s a pretty remarkable statement. I’ve planned complete two- and three-week adventures all by myself, and it hasn’t been this complicated.

I’ve already postponed this trip twice due to Covid, and now it seems I’ll be able to travel next spring. But it’s still complicated.

If I were just doing the tour, it would be easy. The tour portion starts in Ethiopia, and ends in Israel. The dates are fixed, so it’s just a simple matter of finding the best flights to Addis Ababa and then home from Tel Aviv.

But I’ve decided to start with about a week in Turkey, and I want to add a few days at the end so I can visit Petra and Wadi Rum (photo above), in Jordan. Everything about these plans has a slippery aspect; hence, the title of this post.

Flights

Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) can include flights in the itinerary, or they can offer the tour as land-only. They will customize the flights for extensions at the beginning and end, but they only offer flights originating in the US.

My original plan was to arrange my own round-trip flights from Guadalajara to Atlanta and allow OAT to handle my flights from Atlanta to Istanbul, Istanbul to Addis Ababa, and Tel Aviv back to Atlanta.

But then I started thinking I want to fly Business Class across the pond, and OAT charges a premium for that. So if I fly Business Class, I have to book my own flights. And today I called OAT and changed the trip to land-only

Then I discovered that Turkish Airlines flies direct from Mexico City to Istanbul. This will be much easier and cheaper, because I can fly from GDL to MEX much quicker and cheaper than flying to ATL.

But Turkish Airlines only offers one flight each day from IST to ADD, and it’s at a very inconvenient time. So I found a better option on Ethiopian Airlines.

But I still have to settle on dates, and that requires working out the details for my pre-trip visit to Turkey and my post-trip visit to Jordan.

Turkey

Picking a date to fly to IST is the easiest part of this juggling act. I just have to decide how many days I want in Turkey.

As long as I’m going to Istanbul, I also want to visit Cappadocia and Ephesus. Both could be done in long day trips, but I’d really rather spend more time, so if I do an overnight to each of those two destinations, I think I should still allow five or six nights in Istanbul.

The direct flight from MEX to IST departs at 9:45 am and arrives at 10:10 am the next day. So my plan is to leave from MEX nine days prior to the start of the tour. Because of the morning flight time, I’ll have to fly from GDL to MEX the night before. I will probably book an izZzleep pod, though I could also just sleep in the airport.

Ethiopia

As I mentioned, Turkish Airlines has one horrendously inconvenient flight from IST to ADD. It departs at 7:25 pm and arrives at 12:45 am. Plus it’s significantly more expensive than flying Ethiopian. The departure is very early in the morning (7:35 am), which is still not ideal, but I get in at 1:05 pm.

Because I am booking my own airfare, OAT will charge me $50 to pick me up at the airport. Taxis only cost about $7, but I don’t know that I should trust taxis. 

Israel and Jordan

Here’s where the biggest complications come into play.

The tour ends in Mizpe Ramon, in the Negev Desert. On the final day we travel from there to Tel Aviv airport for our flights home.

But as I mentioned above, I want to take a few days at the end to visit Jordan. Petra and Wadi Rum are right at the top of my bucket list. Several operators run these tours from Eilat, a resort town at the southern tip of Israel on the Red Sea. I can get there by bus or taxi; it’s about two hours by car from Mizpe Ramon. There are single-day tours as well as overnight and 2‑night tours.

At the moment, however, it seems tourists cannot enter into Jordan at the Wadi Araba crossing. At least this is what one tour operator is telling me. I cannot, however, find any official information to corroborate this. And things could change by March, but if I plan to stay longer and then can’t do it, I will not only be deeply disappointed, but I will be stuck in Eilat. 

Of course, if I add the extra days and can’t go to Jordan, I could always spend them elsewhere. I can go back to Tel Aviv with the tour and spend a few extra days there to see anything I didn’t have a chance to see with the tour. Or I could fly to Cairo. Or I could find out whether it’s possible to fly to Amman and see my bucket-list sites in Jordan by arriving and departing from there.

Until I know more, however, I’m uneasy about purchasing my airline tickets. At least most airlines are allowing changes these days.

Anxiety

I’m about four months away from the start of this trip. In the past, I was always very excited about looking forward to my trips. But this time around, I’m just kind of anxious. Covid rules may require a test every time I get on a plane. Maybe by then some of these rules will be relaxed.

A part of me thinks I should postpone this trip for the third time. But I also wonder whether travel will ever go back to pre-Covid norms. I may just have to learn to adjust to the new world of travel. And in that case, I guess I should just go and make the best of it all.

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