Friday, June 30, 2017

Our $99 trans-Atlantic fare saved us money, but the costs are much higher than they might seem

    The family and I recently journeyed to Europe on one of those ultra-cheapo fares that Norwegian Airlines is now offering from Stewart, New York, to various locales in Europe. If we had been willing to pack really light, sit in middle seats, and carry our own sandwich on board we could have made the trip from Stewart to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinborough) for $99. We wanted to check bags, sit together, and eat something, so we ended up paying $193.50 each for our flight over the pond.
    For our roughly $95 extra we each got to check a bag, which was certainly worth $40, a surprisingly good meal, which was worth $25, and the ability not to all sit in center seats next to strangers, which was worth $500,000.
    I thought it might be interesting to analyze how much money we actually saved by going through a great deal of effort to journey to New York to get a cheapo fare. Fares out of Memphis to Europe are rarely less than $1,500 round-trip, so I think that’s a good benchmark.
    We’re flying home on TAP Portugal (a very comfortable airline with reasonably wide seats), Barcelona-Newark at a cost of $236.77 each, plus an additional $30 each for seat assignments, for a total of $266.77. So our open-jaw from New York to Europe cost $460.27 each. Add to that the $20 cost of the shuttle bus to the Stewart, New York, airport, and the cost rises to $480.27.
    We now run into a bit of a problem. Our flight took us to Edinburgh, which was in no way on our sightseeing itinerary. Do we count travel time from Edinburgh as part of the trip? I’m not going to, because we enjoyed our stay and were able to visit with one of Jinny’s high school roommates. However, the flight to Helsinki, which was our ultimate destination, cost us $200 each, which really smarted.
    Our costs aren’t over. We had to get to New York. As it worked out, we started our trip immediately after daughter Lucy’s college orientation, and so it was practical (and much cheaper) to fly out of New Orleans, which we could do for 10,000 Delta Skymiles each way, or 80,000 Skymiles. Since Skymiles are said to be worth 1.2 cents each, that’s roughly $960, or $240 each. Oh, and the parking was roughly $240.
    So where are we now? $480.27 for the round-trip, plus $240 for the Skymiles, plus $60 for parking. Add to that $35 each for hotel points for a hotel in New York, plus about $20 each for taxi fare, and our round-trip fare to Europe comes out to about $835. As I said before, one would be hard pressed to find a comparable fare from Memphis for less than $1,500 or perhaps even $2,000, but $835 is a lot more than the low-sounding $99 over and $249 back that I started out with.
    After all is said and done I think we got the cheapest fare possible booking about three months out. But there are frequently round-trip fares from Chicago to Europe in the $600-700 range, and it might be a better deal for a family to simply drive to Chicago and grab one of these – if they are available, of course.
    There’s not really a moral to this story, save that when booking cheap fares in far-flung cities one should be careful to add up all the ancillary costs involved in accessing the fares. In our case we saved money, but one should be careful lest these low fare deals turn out to be a fool’s bargain.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

With a photo snap the world's great paintings can become unique art for your home

This painting is in the British Museum and is pretty unusual.
    If you would like to have original prints and artwork for your home at a really cheap price, you might be interested in my recent experiment, which I think worked out great.
    While visiting the British Museum a few months ago I snapped a photo of a large painting drawn on the occasion of the coronation of Ethiopian Emporor Haile Selassie in 1930. I was planning to try to make a copy of the painting, so I made a point of trying to get a straight and level shot.
    Museums are full of really neat paintings, and while the museums might try to claim reproduction rights to these, the fact is that the museums have no rights at all if the paintings are out of copyright -- the older paintings are in the public domain. In the case of the Ethiopian painting, there was no copyright law in Ethiopia at the time it was created, but even so, under current Ethiopian law any copyright would have expired after 50 years as it is an anonymous work.
    A few weeks ago I got around to doing some photo editing. I decided to have the painting reprinted on a 16x20 canvas from Wal-Mart, as the cost was only $30. That meant I had to chop off the two side panels, which showed various animals living peacefully ever after, keeping just the main section. I had never used the “skew” function of Photoshop, but this is important, as it will help make your painting into a perfect “square” or “rectangle,” essentially removing any distance distortion that was created from your camera angle.
    After a bit of tinkering, I put the print on a Wal-Mart canvas. I actually had to “undersize” the print by about five percent, leaving a white border all the way around it, as this ended up being cut off; if you don't do this, you will lose part of your picture. With luck and a bit of trial and error, I was able to get the little rope border on the painting to appear on the side of the canvas, at the very edge of the frame, which I think looks neat.
Rope border worked perfectly
    I made this painting for my son, Ash, to put in his dorm room. Daughter Lucy has demanded one of her own. I am going to experiment with some other companies that do canvas prints, and perhaps go ahead and pay up to get a larger version that will include the chopped off side panels.
    In addition to creating unique art for personal use, I would think one could make a little extra money by finding neat paintings and later reproducing them on canvas. Some people call this cultural appropriation, which is a great thing to do because it makes liberals mad, so have fun with art!

The final product, perfect for home or dorm room