Our most recent poll is over and I want to thank everyone who cast a vote. The question was simple, would people prefer to save money over convenience. Flying into San Pedro Sula this past summer due to the airport closure at Tegucigalpa certainly proved to be both a challenge and an inconvenience. So, to say that I was quite surprised at the poll results is an understatement. Now that the Tegucigalpa airport is open again I really expected the poll is show a different result.
80% of those who voted stated that flying into San Pedro is OK if it saves money. Of course, the cost of the trip changes each year and so does the cost of airline tickets. But I think it is evident that people want to be able to go on the trip as inexpensively as possible. Money is tight right now and most people want to get the most out of their money, which includes mission work.
Each year I evaluate the work that we have done, the cost of the projects and the amount of money we spend. I am constantly trying to find ways to shave money off of the cost of the projects that we do. I also look for new places to have retreat and get bids to compare so that when it comes time to make out the budget I can make the cost of the trip as accurate and affordable as possible. Some costs are set and fairly consistent, such as the fee to stay at the Mission House or the exit fees. Others change each year, such as the cost of bulk foods and the cost of diesel fuel. This is quite a challenge, especially when trying to release the cost of the trip earlier and earlier.
This year’s trip is projected to cost $700.00 per person PLUS the airline ticket. The $700.00 is based on last year’s costs and the projection of the 2009 projects. The $700.00 per person will pay for all of the following:
* Paper, stamps, envelopes, labels, photocopying, etc for the trip; binders, paper, photocopying, and ink for journals; Torch t-shirts; tips and fees at airports; bus rental fees in Honduras (3 or 4 buses); bus drivers (3 or 4); truck rentals in Honduras; fuel; lodging at the Mission House; Torch application and administration fees; supplemental travel insurance; tool usage and upkeep fee; 2 meals per day at the Mission House; scholarship money for Spanish translators; transportation (private coach) to our retreat; retreat lodging (hotel); retreat meals; approximately $75.00 per person for the work fund to buy bulk foods (rice, beans, coffee, sugar, flour, spaghetti noodles, etc), construction supplies (lumber, tin, hinges, nails, spikes, etc); VBS supplies (snacks, drink mix, games, etc); and the misc. fund (minor bus repairs, parking fees, oil, coolant, etc).
Of course additional money is needed for the work fund to supplement the projects we plan to do each year. Since the price of wood, tin, bulk foods, and fuel, vary from year to year; this affects how much we can do from year to year. The more money we have for the work fund the more projects we can do. Or, as we saw this past year, when costs go up the number of projects have to be reduced. Instead of adding additional money into the cost of the trip per person, most team leaders raise work fund money separately.
In order for us to reduce the cost of the trip we must shop wisely for airline tickets. Flight costs change nearly on a daily basis and can go up or down dramatically. Watching airfares on the Internet is something I do just about everyday. I check flights that go into Tegucigalpa (TACA, American, and Continental) and also check on flights into San Pedro Sula. Since so many expressed interests flying into San Pedro, it opens up 2 additional carriers, Spirit Air, and Delta, into the mix. More competition hopefully means better prices.
Since our group departs from a variety of places, team leaders will need to look at the different flight options and prices. My basic philosophy is that each person (or team) needs to arrive and depart on the same day. This makes my job a little bit easier as I try to make transportation arrangements. Carriers arrive at different times during the day so it is important to know when and where everyone is coming into Honduras. By allowing individuals and teams to make their own flight arrangements, it will help save money. How much depends on when the ticket is purchased, the specials that the carrier is running, and the destination arrival point.
One of the options I am looking at this year is flying Spirit Air. They fly into San Pedro and consistently beat American, TACA, Delta, and Continental on fares. For example, today (Monday, September 22) shows the following fares (flying out of Florida or Texas)
TACA from Miami to Tegucigalpa: $633.30
American from Miami to Tegucigalpa: $671.30
Delta from Miami to San Pedro: $754.55
Continental from Houston to Tegucigalpa: $1,442.00
Spirit Air from Ft. Lauderdale to San Pedro: $359.30
As you can see, Spirit is dramatically cheaper than the other carriers. The flight leaves Ft. Lauderdale at 11:25 pm so you have a lot of options and times to fly into the Ft. Lauderdale area (and could even work part of that day if you choose). You land at midnight, claim luggage, and clear customs by 2:00 am. We would load up on a private, AC coach and would arrive in Tegucigalpa around 7:00 am. We eat breakfast at the Mission House, unload our stuff, and we are off to our first workday by 10:00 am ON THE FIRST DAY WE ARRIVE and work a full day. Since we will be taking our retreat on the northeast coast of Honduras we would be flying out of San Pedro Sula. A short bus ride to the airport is all we have to do, just like last year.
By looking at this option we, as a team and as individuals, could save a lot of money on our airline tickets. Spirit also flies out of Atlanta. Those of us outside of Florida can fly out of Atlanta, or use any number of carriers, including Southwest Airlines, to get to Ft. Lauderdale. Of course, this is just an option and we need to look at all of the flight prices regularly to see what kind of specials is run. And, by the way, spirit has a travel club that you can join for $49.95 which gives you huge discounts (the prices I quoted above is a regular fare price). Ken Haab is a member of the discount club and he flew Spirit air round trip to Guatemala to see his daughter for less than $100 a year ago. So it is possible to travel to Honduras for even less than the price I quoted.
I would love to get some feedback from all of you about the idea. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me your thoughts. Look forward to hearing from you!