By August 2, 2010 Read More →

The Evolution of a Trip

You can read this blog in two ways.  Either as me showing off that I have all the freedom in the world to go on holiday where I like;  or as a useful set of tips and hints for DIY trip planning.  Hopefully demonstrating how, with a lot of time and a bit of flexibility, you can create a holiday that is tailor-made for what you want, not what the package companies want to bundle together and sell for an exorbitant mark up.  It is intended as the latter, honest.
It was also my first attempt at writing a fulsome blog solely on an iPad to see if I can put up with the limitations of the blogging app.  Sadly the lack of hyperlinking and the ability to put in bold, italics or bullet points probably means the answer is no.  I have had to go in on a real computer and do a post publish edit.
Oh and it also lets me limber up my lobes and flex my fingers in readiness for the return of the holiday blog before we set off in just over two weeks.

The Beginning

We started to look at hols this year by musing over a Mediterranean meander (Greek islands seemed like a good idea) , a Cuban canter or even at one point a USA West coast wander.
Cuba was a hot favourite for a while until I discovered the woeful lack in inter web in those parts (apparently the whole of the Internet infrastructure in Cuba hangs off an old sky tv satellite dish -  I i kid you not see here
Before completely ruling out these destinations, we gave them a chance and had look at what a two weeks package would cost to these places.
Remember this is peak season and the holiday companies want to screw all those with families who do not want to affect their children's education by pulling them out of school during term time. Having looked at the prices my heart goes out to you now as we rarely take holidays at this time of the year. It was looking like this
Cuba - around £900-£1300 depending on the quality of the hotel, flying within Thomas Cook and having little choice unless we wanted to go all inclusive
Mykonos in Greece - this quite incredibly was coming in at a cool £950 to £1100
USA trip - by the time we started adding up scheduled fares, car hire and accommodation this was looking very unlikely and what we wanted to fit in could not be squeezed into two and a half weeks, so was abandoned as costs started tipping £1500 each.
Thailand - we looked and found the cheapest package for two weeks in Phuket and again were looking at around £1100 each, but with their flight options the flight/connections would take 19hrs there and nearly 22 hours on the way back, and that is without the inevitable delays and missed connections.
So after getting over the initial shock of these outrageous quotes we thought sod that, what can we do ourselves which could beat that.

The Challenge

What type of trip could we have at similar costs which might be more exiting, and tailor made? Flying at the times we want, getting to see different bits of a region and hopefully doing it at the same cost or less....
So we honed in on Thailand and set ourselves to match the package quote above. We then went in search of the cheapest flight we could find to either, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore.   Knowing that if we could get to any of those destinations we had a good choice of low cost airlines to hop off to somewhere else in any of these countries should the fancy take us, given our experience last year.
STEP 1 - get as close to Thailand as possible for the least amount of money Tools We Used This does not mean I asked the likes of AA Gill or Giles Brandreth to help us, but actually found useful things on the Internet to help in our quest. Flights Skyscanner - a good scraping flight search thats roots out flights across thousands of airlines, but it is fallible and doesn't include many of the low cost airlines in Asia - http://www.skyscanner.net/ Kayak - similar to sky scanner, but sometimes picks up airlines that SS doesn't so always worth having a look in addition to sky scanner - http://www.kayak.co.Uk/ Using these two babies we found a fantastically cheap flight to Bangkok for a mere £460 each with Etihad airways. STEP 2 - Get around the country you want, creating your own multi centre holiday Now for this task Skyscanner and Kayak don't do at all, you need tool number three (let's call this tool Jordan, or Katie as she now likes to be known) - it's cheap and easy to use and so kinda fits with the name Jordan don't you think dear readers. Jordan will let you find out where you can fly to and from any airport in the world on the low cost carriers; which are just about in every country now. In this example for Bangkok on the link above,  scroll down the page where you can see a list of low cost carriers that fly from that airport and, more importantly,  where in each country they connect with.  So you now go off direct to these carriers and find who does the best deal, and repeat this for all your hops to see what the best connections are. Using Jordanin this way we have booked low cost hops (none costing more than £55) to enable us to create a itinerary which will see us visiting:-
  • Bangkok ( arrive at 6pm and stay in a hotel by the airport overnight so we can arrive at our beach location next day by 10am ready to party; with no need to insert matchsticks in our eyes on our first day)
  • Phuket
  • Ko Samui
  • Chiang Mai
  • Then finally back to Bangkok for the last two nights to stuff our suitcase full of shopping in the markets
See the trip here - View Asia Summer 2010 in a larger map In addition to these flights I have been yearning to 'do an overnight sleeper train' and thought this would be an ideal opportunity to slot one in on this trip.  So we travel overnight in a first class sleeper train from Ko Samui back to Bangkok on our way to Chiang Mai, all for the princely sum of £35 each. I found a fantastic resource for train travel just about anywhere in the world and if like me you get a bit nostalgic about the wonders of train travel check this site out it really is a fantastic source of info for train travel around the globe. http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm Now don't get me wrong I am not saying that this is easy or doesn't take quite a bit (no scratch that a fuck of a lot) of time, but I actually get some geeky pleasure from this, and for me to start the excitement of travel weeks before you undo your belt at airport security! Scores so far Total cost before we begin to look at accommodation UK to Bangkok £460 - Etihad, via Abu Dhabi, 13 hr flight including connections Internal Thailand flights and sleeper train £175, Air Asia, Bangkok Air (turbo prop airplane - not sure I am looking forward to this one) and Thai Railways TOTAL TRANSPORT COSTS = £635 each, which if we are to match the package costs leaves a budget of around £465 per person or £60+ per night per room, which in Thailand will get you some very nice accommodation indeed. But more of that in a later blog which will include:- STEP 3 - Choose hotels that match your needs and desires STEP 4 - Move from frantic to relaxed, to a bit of culture during your trip STEP 5 - Get a bit anal about researching weather, best areas to stay in each resort, and almost wearing TripAdvisor out. STEP 6 -Use cloud computing for your planning - Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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5 Comments on "The Evolution of a Trip"

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  1. oke says:

    >Hello,

    I used liligo.co.uk and found better deals for flights to Bangkok from the UK. Take a look…they include Oman Air, Air India and Etihad (which you found).

  2. Helen says:

    >"to start the excitement of travel weeks before you undo your belt at airport security!"

    Classic.

  3. Helen says:

    >Oh, and PS – is Tripadvisor really the definitive take for hotels? Got any other hotel site recs, for prices and options (to then be backed up by the obligatory check of TA review)?

  4. Chicky says:

    >Agoda – http://www.agoda.com/asia/thailand.html
    Hotels.com have other review sections

    They all share to some extent, but some have their own. And if you are trawling the lower end of the market then hostel sites have a view point from the budget conscious traveller, and its not all YMCA fleapits

    http://www.hostelworld.com/
    http://www.hostels.com/

  5. Helen says:

    >Found one at lunch today – like couch surfing but you pay for the privilege – will look into it:
    http://www.airbnb.com/