One thing I know is to expect the unexpected when it comes to IVF. So when you’re doing IVF abroad, it’s even more tricky.
You have to make the difficult decision: how far ahead do you dare to book plane tickets and hotels. You want the best deal and peace of mind but are at the mercy of so many things outside of your control. Like when your period comes and if you’re responding to the IVF drugs as planned.
I have two experiences of arranging travel abroad for IVF: cycle one, Reprofit (Brno, Czech Republic) and cycle three, GENNET (Prague, Czech Republic). Here’s my guide to booking ahead for flights, accommodation and transfers.
For IVF round one, on the short antagonist protocol, I left booking flights until I started stimming. But even though my period is regular, I couldn’t guarantee its arrival. So I decided to wait till the first day of my period before buying the flights.
By then the prices had shot up. (There’s only one flight a day to Brno from the UK – London Stansted with Ryanair – so they have a monopoly.) I could have got cheaper, but I would have been more stressed had I taken a gamble and booked in advance.*
However, with round three (GENNET, Prague) I’m on the long protocol, which means I know several weeks before I start downregging when I’ll start stimming, and when I need to be in Prague for my day nine scan. So, I’ve decided to book my fights a month in advance as the price was so reasonable (£103 return, BA).
But there is still a risk.
I should add though that there are loads of flights to Prague from London (Luton, Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted…), so it’s likely you can get one decently priced closer to the time if you were more risk adverse.
I’m relying on a) my day 22 scan and b) my downregging scan two weeks later being OK. But these have always been fine in previous rounds, so I’m taking a chance. I’d rather know my flights are booked than doing it last minute this time. I’ve since checked BA’s website, and there are only a few seats left on the flight I’ve booked, so this seems to have been a good move.
Verdict: For Brno, there’s less choice of flights and so the sooner you book the better. With Prague, there are way more options.
We decided to get Airbnbs for both Reprofit and GENNET rather than hotels, as you can stay somewhere nice at a great price.
Airbnb has different cancellation policies, and because we never know 100% what dates we needed to stay in advance, booking a place with a flexible or moderate policy was the key here. That means you can cancel or change your dates up to 48 hours before you’re due to stay and only lose the service charge (typically around £50 from experience).
There aren’t many of flexi options in Brno. It’s a smaller city (400,000 population) compared with Prague (over a million). So I’d highly recommend booking accommodation sooner rather than later. Otherwise you could end up with something either expensive, unsuitable or with strict cancellation fee. We ended up with a great place for our Reprofit trip. My husband – ever the haggler – negotiated a really good deal with the host because of the length of time we stayed. And it was out of season, which helped.
With Prague, there’s more choice but still not many flexible cancellation options, with most I looked at being strict. We spent more on accommodation than Brno, but we wanted to be in the heart of the city. You can definitely get cheaper by staying further out. But you don’t want to go to Prague and feel a million miles away from the sights and sounds. I want to be able to walk to lunch and dinner places easily. Have coffee and cake shops close by when I need a pick-me-up. I’m treating it as much as a holiday as I can.
However, remember that you’re probably going to end up spending a fair amount of time in your accommodation while recovering. (Or sheltering from the winter weather as I imagine we’ll be doing in early February in Prague). In Brno, I went out of my mind not having a TV in our flat. Although I was grateful for having a separate bedroom away from the main living accommodation to mope around in peace. So a TV with English channels and one bedroom minimum rather than a studio were a must this time.
Verdict: book early to get your pick of accommodation with a flexible cancellation policy. Haggle if you can!
With Brno, we got a cab from the airport to the city centre. It only took 20mins, and cost around £20. At that price, I couldn’t be bothered to get a bus, although I know many people do. For Prague, it’s about 35mins journey from the airport into the centre, and £30 in a cab. So I looked at other alternatives.
You can order the airport shuttle bus online in advance that goes straight into town. There are cheaper buses, but you have to change onto the metro half way through. While I have done this every time I’ve been to Prague, it’s a bit of a hassle. Especially if you’re there with a big suitcase, feeling fragile.
The bus costs around EUR3 from Prague airport. It drops you off only a couple of hundred yards from GENNET at Florenc (main bus station). So booked this for peace of mind. The ticket is for a specific bus that runs each hour. The one I’ve booked is an hour and 15 minutes after I land. So I might decide on the day to just get a cab for the sake of convenience. But let’s see how I feel.
Verdict: no need to book a cab in advance as you can get one at the airport. If money is an issue, get the bus in both Prague and Brno. In Prague, if you want to go straight to GENNET, book the airport shuttles in advance.
Sidenote: *I couldn’t remember how much I paid for my Reprofit flights, so I searched my inbox and came across this email that I sent my husband in March 2018. It just goes to show how much thinking goes into making travel arrangements abroad – or at least I certainly looked into every single option! The flights I ended up booking I’m sure were over £200 return…
I’ve had a quick look at flights. I’ve been looking at other options outside of Stansted/Brno flights, such as Vienna, Prague and Bratislava going out on that Thursday, 5 April.
The cheapest that I can see is Luton to Vienna with easyjet @ £46 each followed by Gatwick to Vienna @ £63. Apparently there’s an airport train that takes you from Vienna airport to the train station in 16 mins, and then the train from there to Brno is about an hour and a half. I know you don’t fancy Luton, but I’ve been looking at our lounge passes, and we could use them there. Although the flight is at 7am, so is there any point? If we go on a Thursday, at least it’s less likely to be busy… but then I suppose we have to take airport car parking into account, which defeats the object of us not going to Stansted.
The only way round NOT paying carparking is to fly Heathrow or Gatwick. There is a flight from Heathrow 07:30-10:30 to Prague going BA, but it’s £135. Another alternative is to fly from Gatwick – 14:20-17:15 for £108 with Smartwings, or the same time with Czech Wings for £110. The only issue here is we wouldn’t get there til quite late, and then we’d have to factor getting from the airport to the train station, and then getting a 2hrs 30 to 3hr-train journey. Not worth it in my opinion.
Alternatively, we could travel to Bratislava from Luton @ £75, and the train from Bratislava to Brno is about an hour and a half. But again, it’s Luton, it’s the carparking, it’s the trains…
If we do end up travelling to Vienna, Prague or Bratislava, we’ll want to go early in the day, as we have to get connections etc, so we’re left with Luton to Vienna with easyjet @ £46 (plus car parking and 1hr 30 min train); Luton to Bratislava @ £75 (plus car parking and 1hr and a half train); or Heathrow to Prague with BA @ £135 (plus cab to Heathrow and 3hr train).
Which kind of brings me full circle to whether we should just fly from Stansted. The flight time is decent (13:50-17:00), we’ll get in at a good time without having to faff around with trains, and the price (£82) is OK. Yes, it’s RyanAir but we could use our lounge passes… also, they do have a more expensive ‘FlexiPlus’ ticket option, which allows you to change your ticket by up to one day free of charge, as well as giving you priority boarding, a premium seat, a checked-in bag. This is £158.89 to fly out Thursday 5 April, but only £118.69 if you book to fly out on the Wednesday 4 April. I don’t see what’s stopping us booking the flight for the Wednesday and then changing it to a Thursday ticket closer to the date for free, but saving £80 between us. But that does mean we’d have to fly on Thursday whether I’m ready or not…
Anyway, this is a bit rambling and I don’t think we can book anything until we’re closer to the time. Unless we did book cheap tickets, such as the easyjet Vienna ones and hope for the best… I’m a bit worried about the prices jumping up but then don’t want to lose money as well… :-O !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!