Or perhaps I should say “fall”, as it’s most often referred to in North America, a continent I hope to be seeing much more of. For sentimental reasons.

POSTED BY PINKY

Known to me for maple syrup, hockey, athletic apparel brand Lululemon, and…..Celine Dion, Canada is also the country my sister and her family have called home for almost a decade. I had 10 days for my first visit (ever). And I chose to go in the fall.

Suffice it to say, this was a trip that had been long overdue. You see, I have two sisters – both living in North America but in two different countries. Here I was missing them and frankly, I found it a little sad that we had visited other countries in previous years and not once to visit family.

So I decided it was time to do so. Alone. No more excuses. THIS was finally happening.

I marked the dates in my calendar – 10 days in November for each sister (spreading the love equally, remember?) – lured not only by the promise of seeing the amazing red foliage that’s unique to North America this time of year and the cooler temperatures I always go for, but also to take advantage of cheaper airfares and less crowded sights.

International Connections 

I went online as early as March and found a Philippine Airlines deal for direct flights from Manila to Vancouver and San Francisco to Manila for a total of only US$902 all-in! Economy class seats, yes, but I opted to pay the additional $50 upon check-in at the airport for one of the better seats in economy reserved by the airline (to sell to people like me. Hahaha).

I actually could have purchased a seat upgrade online, which I tried to do. I called customer service and requested them to make available this option (to purchase a seat upgrade) to my airfare category as I had bought my ticket at a huge discount. My airfare category must have been so low (cheap!) that the system didn’t even allow me to choose any seat online.

Anyway, the nice lady I spoke to asked me to wait for an email from the airline confirming when I could already purchase the seat upgrade. But it had taken so long for the email to arrive (which never came, by the way) and I was afraid that if I waited too long, I might lose my chances on both the specific seat that I was eyeing on for my upgrade and the best regular seat available to me at the time (which, lo and behold, had now been made available to me by the system!). So I hedged and went on to reserve a regular seat. I figured that once I finally receive the email from the airline, I could just change my regular seat to an upgrade, right?

Wrong! That’s not how it works, I was told, when I called the airline to follow up on that email I had been waiting for.  Once I’d chosen my seat, that was it. I was then advised that my only recourse was to make sure I get to the check-in counter as early as possible on the day of departure. Great. That was precisely what I was hoping to avoid, but what the hey.

So arrive early I did on the day of my flight. And I was rewarded with a first-row aisle seat directly behind Business Class!

Photo taken from my PAL seat. Not bad, eh?

 

Within North America

For connections within the U.S. and Canada,

• I booked a United Airlines flight from Vancouver to St. Louis via Denver for only US$195, plus $25 for my first luggage and $35 for the second one.

• And a Southwest Airlines direct flight from St. Louis to San Francisco for just US$186. Southwest Airlines, however, boards passengers on a first-come, first-served basis (no seat reservations possible), so I chose to pay the extra $12.50 for the Early Bird Check-in option, which allows one to board ahead of the other passengers (but only after Business Class and those in Southwest’s Rewards program). All Early Birds are prioritised to board, by groups, in the same order as when you had purchased the option.

Finally…

The winner for me among the airlines I took was Southwest Airlines. Not only do they allow you to bring 2 pieces of checked-in luggage and 1 hand-carried luggage for free, they serve you light snacks as well – for free!

I may be among those late in the game, but if you haven’t taken Southwest Airlines when traveling to the US on a budget, I’d encourage you to check it out.

To sum it all up, by choosing to fly in November AND by booking early (8 months ahead, to be precise), my total airfare came up to only a little over $1,300. Not too bad. I was on my way…

Philippine Airlines flies direct daily from Manila to both Vancouver and San Francisco