Following along the lines of the previous post, we come to:
Here’s what I do when I check flight prices:
1. Add my destination in Google Flights
2. Check dates during my chosen month for low price, choose one and hit enter
3. The lowest fare is shown at the top of the list. I scan through it to pick out the airline names that are offering a resonably priced ticket and also to check the connecting flight operators (if any)
4. Directly go on over to the airline’s website and tally prices
Why do I do this?
A) This gives me an idea about the airlines that are offering cheap flights
B) It also tells me about the stop-over airport options for when I need to book the connecting flights separately
Do all of this in Incognito mode because websites collect cookies to determine the pattern of your search and when you search the same route repeatedly, the prices are raised gradually to scare you into booking.
For all my travel destinations so far, I’ve seen AirAsia to be a consistent low-cost airline. My free verbal promotion of AirAsia everywhere I go has earned me the the nickname of ‘AirAsia’s unofficial brand ambassador’ (which I wish I was) at the office. Haha! Anyway, so I checked AirAsia right away for flight prices. This is where it got a bit tricky.
AirAsia does not fly to the Koh Samui international airport. Instead, it has a tie-up with the government-owned Thai ferry company, Raja ferry that transports people (and cars, and trucks and what-not) between the main land and the island. However, there is no direct channel to avail this option from Kolkata. From Bangkok, yes. But Kolkata, no.
So here’s what we did:
Kolkata airport –> Don Mueang airport (Bangkok) –> Surat Thani airport (Thailand)
From Surat Thani, a 1.5-hour bus-ride with Phantip Travel company transported us to Donsak pier.
We were then further connected via Raja ferry to Lipa Noi pier in Koh Samui. The ferry took another 1.5 hours.
On our way back, instead of Surat Thani, we took the connecting to Bangkok from Nakhon Si Thammarat airport. Only 3 airline carriers operate in this tiny airport: AirAsia, Nok Air and Thai Lion.
Sure, the route is long and hectic with a lot of connects in between, but it somewhat fit our budget. Surprisingly, it cut down our round-trip expenses by 50%! Now who wouldn’t take a deal like that?
I’ll be honest here. Even though this route is astonishingly cheap, it adds to the travel time significantly and the journey is quite tiring too. So, here’s what I suggest:
1. If the airline permits it, start in the morning instead of starting at the end of a full working day
2. Stay longer – the accommodation cost for a couple of extra nights is way inexpensive compared to short-duration flight prices
3. Keep Your Baggage Limit in Mind
AirAsia fares generally include a 7 kilo carry-on luggage per ticket. The check-in baggage weight starts from 20 kilos which you need to buy. We buy this for one ticket. So we end up with a total allowance of:
7 (carry-on) + 7 (carry-on) + 20 (check-in) = 34 kilos
Our check-in luggage usually stays near the 20-kilo mark. So we keep our carry-on luggage light. This gives us room for a few more kilos of shopping that we can do without having to buy further luggage permit.
I have a few pieces of advice for you about luggage:
1. While packing, think of what you will wear each day. List them down if your memory is as poor as mine. For two-piece clothing, try to mix and match your tops and bottomwear so that you have an average of 2-3 tops per bottomwear. This saves you a lot of packing space and ensures that you do not carry too many extra clothing.
Repeating your dresses is absolutely fine and necessary when you are on vacation on a budget. I’ve learnt not to care about my clothing choices. It hardly matters when you are having a good time. Trust me, it isn’t a good idea to compromise on your travel experiences for clothes.
2. The second advice is, while shopping, always keep your luggage limit in mind. You may get a little carried away considering the beautiful and reasonably-priced spread in the night markets of Samui. Just to be sure, check your luggage weight in the hotel and be prepared to let go of a few items if you have exceeded the limit.
3. While I was packing for Samui, I told Tathagata that we need to buy a small tube of toothpaste and a travel-size bottle of handwash. He told me, “We’ll buy these in Samui”. Point is, every piece of toiletry you can think of can be bought where you are going. We bought tiny sizes of toothpaste tube, handwash and after-sun spray from a 7-11 at Samui and used them up before leaving for home. So, if there is any piece of toiletry you need to buy before going to Samui (or anywhere), don’t buy it. Instead buy it from where you are going. Remember, every little piece adds to the weight.
This applies to all beach accessories as well – beach bags, hats etc. If you don’t already own them, buy them at Samui instead of buying them before you go. It’s always cheaper. For example, I needed a beach bag to carry the towels, toiletries, change of clothes etc. So, I bought a pretty yellow hobo bag for around 500 INR whereas a basic beach bag would’ve cost me approximately a 100 Baht in Samui which comes down to 230 INR – less than half the price!
Read Part 3 here.