Firstly, with the recommended flight, there are two options: 1) buy the ticket now while it's still "cheap", with a return date in February or something, and later on when it becomes available, call the airline and ask to change the return date to the correct time (which is apparently easy enough to do), but I'll have to a $250 penalty fee, plus whatever difference in cost there is, if there is any (that is, if the ticket is originally $1600 like it is right now, but it goes up to $1800, I'd have to pay the $200 difference, on top of the $250 penalty fee); or 2) wait until summer to buy the round-trip ticket with the correct return date, but because the price has a 95% chance of going up by a lot by then, I'll still probably be paying about $2000 or more. I was about to buy the ticket yesterday, but then I guess it was too big of a purchase to buy it with my debit card, so I'd have to call my bank and let them know or have them do something so it's possible or something, and then the second person I was talking to who was helping me do this had mentioned another option, so I decided to wait.
The other option this second person was telling me about was that there is another airline I could go through that would be probably $500 cheaper or so, and there would be more benefits to this flight or something. Plus, the penalty fee for changing the return date is only $75, compared to the recommended airline's $250, though I'd still have to pay the change in ticket price, if there is any. And then, where the recommended flight is nonstop, this other one would have a layover or two. So, option 1 on this airline: there is a flight that will arrive about an hour before the recommended flight, but I'm afraid to do that, because the group that will escort us back to campus won't wait for any flight but the recommended one, and I'm nervous about layovers, if only because I'm paranoid that my luggage will get lost. Option 2: there is a flight that would arrive the day before the recommended flight, and the person I was talking to said she could book a hotel room basically in or within easy walking distance of the airport, so I'd say overnight and then meet the group the next day.
After thinking it over it, going through the other airline and arriving a day early seems like the best option, if only because it's cheaper. But then, I'm worried about the layovers, because not only would I have to find my way to the next terminal, but there's a much higher possibility of my luggage being lost. And then, I don't know how good this airline is--I think it was American Airlines, whereas the recommended flight is on Delta Airlines. Which one is better? Or is it worth it to spend more to take the recommended flight? But now I'm talking to some relatives who've flown on both airlines, and it seems like it'd be okay. Rather, she was recommending to go ahead and arrive early and save the money. I dunno. Save money, arrive a day earlier, and deal with layovers and a higher risk of losing my luggage, or spend a ton of money, be sure that I'll meet the escort group, and have a nonstop flight? I'm kinda cheap, so I'd rather save money, but I've been reading a lot of bad things about this other airline and how they are one of the top ones to lose luggage and stuff, but I've also seen some good reviews, and I just don't know anymore. Or maybe--and I probably am--I'm just overthinking things. But you know, I think it'd be interesting to stay in a hotel and possibly be able to explore Nagoya a bit--which, let's be honest, I probably won't do because 1) I'll most likely be very tired and 2) I'm really not that outgoing/confident or comfortable trying to explore a new place by myself. Which is why this whole trip will be a great experience, and I'll push myself to get out of my comfort zone. But mostly, I'll just be too nervous about being in a place where I don't know much of the language, though probably a lot of people there speak at least some English, and I'm extremely directionally challenged, so with those two things combined...Basically, I'd like to try and avoid getting myself lost.
Well, that's about it for my spew on plane tickets for now. I'll probably just edit this post later when I've made a decision and bought my ticket. I hope this wasn't too confusing, and I hope it can help anyone trying to figure out the whole process of buying a plane ticket and flying and all that other fun stuff.
Edit: It turns out now, after discussing it with various people, I'm probably just going to go on the recommended flight. The price difference is "small" enough, it's not really worth it, or so we've decided. Also, most likely I'll be waiting until summer to buy the ticket, risking a large increase in the price, but one that would probably be about the same as if I bought it now and paid a ton to change the return date. I think I'll be able to buy the ticket in about a month, in any case, and so far most, if not all, of the seats are still available, I think. Keeping my fingers crossed...that it doesn't suddenly become fully booked in the next month or so, and that the price isn't TOO bad (that is, that it isn't too much over $2000, but I'm not hoping for much, really). It might just be me and because it's my first time doing this, but buying a ticket shouldn't be this stressful. OK, yeah, it's probably just me. But still, it shouldn't be so expensive--some of us happen to be poor college students currently without a job and living off of scholarship/loan/grant funds that are mostly being used for rent anyway (and I did look for a job, but...). Anyway, that's it for now.