Q My husband is from China and visits family there every couple of years. I would like to see our relatives, but the idea of a 12- to 14-hour nonstop flight has become daunting as I have aged. Is there any route or airline that is cost-effective and lets me break up the flight to a reasonable degree?
A There are a couple of ways to give yourself a break on that long journey. One is practical and comes from travel agent Tina Erskine, the owner of Tina's Travel Network in Pflugerville, Texas. The other requires the luxury of time and money and comes from my dreams.
Once upon a time, travel agents were happy to book airline tickets for you. Some still are. But many must charge a service
She likes using an aggregator search engine such as Kayak.com instead of a booking site (that's an online travel agency such as Expedia, Travelocity or Orbitz). Also, there's no service fee if you book with the airline, and if you have trouble on your trip, you go through the airline rather than a third party.
For an itinerary such as this reader's, she suggests using the "multicity" option that Kayak offers and entering a stopover city (Honolulu). "It would ultimately cost her
The itinerary (late-spring dates chosen at random) is LAX-Honolulu (US Airways), overnight, Honolulu to Beijing (Korean Air with a 1½-hour stop in Seoul). The return is the same routing, reversed. Total price: $1,797.89. If our reader flew on those dates, the best fare I found on Kayak was $1,635 nonstop (Air China), $1,110 on China Eastern/China Southern (stop in Shanghai) and $1,001 for two stops (ANA, with stops in San Francisco and Tokyo).
Here's my solution to ease stress: Sail to Hawaii, then fly to Beijing. This isn't the olden days of Matson Lines and American President Lines, which offered ship trips to Hawaii. But today, some cruise lines (Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, among them) offer one-way trips to Hawaii when they reposition their ships. The embarkation may be Vancouver, British Columbia, or Ensenada, Mexico, to meet the requirements of the 1920 Jones Act. (Only U.S.-flagged ships may travel from one U.S. port to another, which means very few cruise ships sailing today.) These journeys typically last 11 days, and you'd have to wait several months upon return from Beijing to find a ship traveling back to the mainland. Still, sailing to Hawaii, spending a few months there waiting for a return trip and then sailing home? Now that's stress reduction.
Today's column comes from Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times.