How We Got There
Our September 1997 trip to Northern California actually began in Charlotte, NC, in February. Jen and I were headed down to Key West to meet up with our friend Brett and have a nice long weekend in the sun while the rest of the country froze to death.
Our trip to Key West on USAir took us through Charlotte, one of their hubs. When we arrived at the gate counter for our flight to Miami, we were told that although we had "confirmed" tickets, we actually had no seat assignments. USAir had oversold the flight and we were the victims. Most passengers for the flight were booked on cruises and couldn't be coaxed off the plane for a free ticket. So Jen and I were not allowed on the flight. This created a whole array of headaches that day, but one benefit was that we received free tickets to fly anywhere in the U.S.
Jen and I were glad to get the tickets because we love to travel. We decided that we wanted to stick it to USAir as much as possible, so we chose San Francisco as our flight destination, since it was about as far away from Columbus as they could fly us.
When you get a free ticket, it's not as convenient as it seems. These tickets don't allow you to just call up and say, "I want flight 452 at 10AM." The airlines only make certain flights and seats available as "free" seats. You have to take what you can get.
Free tickets saved us at least $500. With that taken care of, we figured we could stay for a whole week, provided we camped a few of the nights to save lodging money. We've never camped on a flying trip before, so it was interesting trying to cram our tent, sleeping bags, flashlight, and blanket into a huge duffel bag (and even more interesting to have to carry it!).