Trip planning – my second favourite thing after actually travelling. I am in the midst of planning a trip at the moment to the UK and with a quick sidestep to Croatia for a little sun and fun.
I am heading there with one of my oldest and closest friends who has been living in Europe for the last two years (lucky much!) and so I have been treating her as the authority on how best to travel through Europe (it’s been a while since I was last there).
We did all of this over Skype over the last few weekends and despite Skype’s best effort at disconnecting us at the most inconvenient points we managed to book our flights.
It was a work of art on her part it must be said! As soon as we had narrowed the field of dates she pulled up three different flight websites. First she looked at which were the best airports to use from London, then she fiddled with dates, then we reversed the trip (Dubrovnik -> Split became Split->Dubrovnik), went back to the original dates, changed London airports one more time and came up with two relatively good deals (considering the time of year we are flying that is).
It then came down to decision time – here were the options
Flight one – Hard to get to London airport, 6am flight, cheapest
Flight two – Hard to get to London airport, 2pm flight, not as cheap.
Our natural bargain hunting instinct was to go for the cheaper option – cheaper is always better! However, we paused for a moment and thought about it. The 2pm flight would be a lot more convenient for me, as I would have only arrived the night before and was hoping to have breakfast with my cousin, not to mention the trek I was going to have to do across London to Luton – the question then became was the 20 pound saving worth losing the convenience? Quick answer was no – problem solved, flights booked!
It did get me thinking though of all the trips I have done how the backpacker thrift mentality takes hold, bargaining down to the last penny in spite of my own personal preference.
When I was travelling round South East Asia I was pretty skint and so did as much of the trip on the cheap as I possibly could – however, in reflection, there were a few times when I wished I had spent a little more money to enjoy the experience:
Beds V Bugs: Rocking into Chang Rai we began the usual hunt of looking for a place to place our heads for the night, the first two hostels we looked at were charging the equivalent of $8 a night – we had just come out of Laos so this was extraordinarily high for us. Eventually we found a place that had a room above a pub for $4 a night… bargain! In retrospect I would have paid the extra $4 to avoid sleeping on the suspiciously stained mattress above a juke box that played Black Eyed Peas “Good Night” over and over again – wasn’t a good night.
Groomed V Gross: All through Asia you can get great pedicure or manicure for great prices. Trick is to make sure you don’t fall for the allure of having your nails done by those lovely smiling ladies who come round while you are on the beach. Sounds like bliss – lying on a deck chair sipping a cocktail while having your nails done – and it is for all of five minutes! Then you realise that there is no way they could have sterilised the utensils between doing your nails and the German man’s down the beach… ewww factor. Don’t risk infection – head to one of the salons, there are loads of them, they are still cheap but what you pay for is a little bit more peace of mind.
Slow Boat V Fast Boat: There is a scam in Thailand run on tourists heading out to Koh Phanang for the full moon party. Everyone knows about the it and naturally tries to avoid falling for it. Basically there are two tickets, slow boat or for $2 more fast boat – the scam is that they are the SAME boat! We bought the slow boat tickets and transfer to the wharf. SCAMMED – we ended up sitting in a little booking office for three hours while being bullied/conned into buying the fast boat tickets. We gave in. Wish we had given in sooner – because as soon as we did we were taken to the wharf where all the other travellers were lolling about waiting for the boat sipping beers and eating great food – $2 for three hours of my life, sure!
Bed V Bells: Jumping off the bus ride from hell in Luang Parbang we bargain down with the scalpers who met the bus for a great deal – a room with TV and air-con, close to the city centre, five nights for the price of three! Score! Except that across the street was a very big and special Buddhist Wat that was celebrating a festival – that was going on for 8 days. This involved little gongs being played constantly (which eventually you could drown ignore) and a big gong being played sporadically ever hour or so (no one could have drowned this one out) – wish we had packed our bags and gone somewhere else – missing sleep is never a good thing.
Sometimes paying a little bit extra can save you loads of hassle in the long run – note to self don’t be stingy!