So when are you leaving?

Yeah…um…about that.

I haven’t actually gotten my plane ticket yet.  I guess I’ve been busy with school and Christmas and generally unprepared to make the $1600 investment.  (One that my parents have very generously offered to pay for, I should add.  I’m not sure if it’s because they want me to get as far away from them as possible, or because they want to make sure I come home at the end of the semester.  Either way, thanks, mom and dad.)

My study abroad advisor recommended booking tickets through a travel agent who could arrange a flexible return date in case I, you know, decide to hang around for a few more days or years.  So sometime this week (or maybe next week), I plan to visit my friendly local AAA office with my mom and her credit card and get this matter taken care of.  I’ve never used a travel agent, and I’ve certainly never booked a $1000+ plane ticket, so even purchasing the flight will be a new experience for me.

I don’t know exactly when I’m leaving yet, but here’s what I do know so far:

— My housing contract begins February 13, so I’ll want to arrive in Sydney on that day.  Which, by my calculations, means I’ll leave STL on February 11.  No, really.

— I don’t want to visit a bunch of different airports.  STL –> LAX –> SYD would be ideal.  Considering I’ve only flown once in my life, I’d like to keep this process as simple as possible.

— On my way back to STL in June, I want to spend a day with my friend Alex in L.A.  I’ve been to 34 states, but California is not one of them, and I want to change that.

— As noted above, I want a flexible return date.  But not too flexible, because my friend is getting married June 17.  Since I’m a bridesmaid, I should probably be there.

— I don’t really care what airline gets me across America, but I want to fly Qantas from L.A. to Sydney.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about them.  Well, except for the whole airplane explosion thing.

So here’s where you come in.  Do you have any advice on working with travel agents, getting the best deals, the worst airlines to use, or any important factors I’m missing?

Discuss!  Enlighten me!

(I’m sure I’ll be asking for advice on killing time during long layovers and dealing with jet lag in a later post.)

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