26 May 2018
A post about how I ended up running more and more abroad thanks to Wizz.
Recently, a major change could be observed in my running habits: I tend to run more and more abroad. I've always packed my running shoes when I traveled to another country for work related purposes, but in the last few weeks, I've made trips just for the sake of running. This is mostly thanks to a low-cost airline company, Wizz Air. In this post, I aim to tell You my story, and share my experiences to provide a little bit of guidance if You want to do something similar.
Last year I was really lucky to have my teaching visit in Iceland at the time of the Reykjavik Spring Marathon. After that marathon, I started dreaming about running marathons in as many countries as possible. I thought traveling to be pretty expensive, so I expected my Marathonmap to "progress" really slowly. Fast forwarding to this year, I had another Erasmus visit planned to Cyprus, and this time, I tried to schedule things so, that I can run a marathon there too. Luckily, there were two of them organized in March, and my work-trip was just right after the one in Limassol.
When I was searching for my flights, I ended up on the site of Wizz Air. As a Hungarian person, I obviously knew of the company, and I've even traveled with them a couple of times beforehand for conferences, research visits, etc. However, I've never really examined all the options, discounts available before, as it was usually my University dealing with the booking of tickets. This time, I spent probably 1 or 2 hours of studying all the rules and options before finally booking my tickets to Larnaca. I realized, that the allowed free cabin luggage is large enough to have all the clothes that I need for a short visit, and even for my 9 day visit if I can somehow wash my clothes, which is much cheaper than paying for a check-in luggage. The only downside was, that I needed to bring my notebook with me, which also takes up big space, and it is too fragile to go to the bottom of the plane if there is not enough space in the cabin. Luckily, the Priority check-in option of Wizz solves both of these issues for a very decent price. Then, I was asked if I want to become a discount member or not, and I believe, that this was the point, where everything started... But let's not get ahead of us, and break this text-monotony with some nice photos about running in Cyprus. (There will be a separate posts about my experiences at each of the locations mentioned here, so this is just a teaser.)
The membership fee for a year is 30 EUR, and it ensures 10 EUR discount on all flights, so it doesn't require a PhD in Mathematics to realize, that it is beneficial to become a member if someone travels at least twice a year. So I did exactly that when I booked my tickets to Larnaca. This meant however, that I always got the mails from Wizz about daily discounts, and special offers, which made me book 7 further flights since then.
The first of those bookings were a 4 day trip to Malta. After a long and tireing day at work, I got an e-mail about having a 20-30 percent discount if I book that day with the trip ending in May. I looked at the Wizz Map and got surprised, how many destinations are available with direct flights just from Budapest. Since I had no specific destinations in mind, I started browsing plenty of them, which one has cheap options in the time period I had in mind. In the end, I sticked to Malta, as it is a very unique, small country. Unfortunately, there were no races in Malta at that time, but I still got nearly 100 kilometers in my shoes, and I have to say, it was totally worth it. But decide it yourselves, here are a few photos.
In April, I participated a conference in Rome, where I also flew with Wizz. This time the booking was done by my University, and I traveled together with a colleague. Two priority checkins and a single check-in bag was more than enough for everything the two of us needed for the conference and my running gear. The presentations at the conference were very interesting, and scheduled from dawn to dusk, so I've had a very limited time for running. But that did not keep me from waking up at 5 am a couple of times, and running around Vatican city or visiting the Colosseum.
As I am already registered for two more marathons abroad this year, I really did not plan to visit Macedonia in the beginning of May. However, a mail from Wizz landed in my inbox about the Wizz Air Skopje Marathon. The registration fee was only 25 EUR, and Wizz awarded that with a 20 EUR voucher. 5 EUR for a marathon in a country I have never been to sounded great, so I checked the flight tickets. There was a flight on Saturday early morning from Budapest to Skopje for only 9 EUR. This was perfect, as I had the chance to get my race package and have a trail run to the Millenium Cross. Unfortunately, there were no flights back to Budapest on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. However, my city, Gyor, is actually located closer to the airports in Bratislava and Vienna. Luckily, there was a Wizz flight to Bratislava Sunday evening for 30 EUR. So in total I spent ~40 EUR for flight tickets, an additional 25 EUR for the race registration, and 7 EUR for the hostel for one night (including breakfast!). From the latter I also got 1 EUR back as Wizz credits thanks to the collaboration between Wizz and Booking.com. Of course, I had to spend additional money on Airport transfers in Budapest, Skopje, Bratislava, and my trips to and from Gyor, which I estimate to be around 40-50 EUR altogether.
So the total budget was below 125 EUR including train tickets, taxi fees, flight tickets, marathon registration, and accommodation. On the other side, I got a 20 EUR voucher, 1 EUR credit from Booking, and thanks to using my Wizz credit card for nearly everything, something like 5 EUR Wizz Credit back. And this is what I got for that money:
When I was still in Cyprus, a friend of mine invited me to the Athens Marathon, and when I was in Rome, I did the registration. Of course, running on the "authentic" track was a big motivator. I booked my flights a week ago too, when Wizz had another 20-30 percent discount day. The flights from Budapest were not so cheap, and did not fit my schedule well, so I ended up with this:
Anyhow, in the last few months I had to realize, that having trips abroad, and running there (races or not) is not as expensive as one initially thinks. It is really affordable once or twice a year, especially, if You do it with Wizz and their discounts.