Back in August, I received an invitation to a wedding in Jakarta. At the moment I didn’t think I would have come, considering the distance and expenses. Being the curious travel planner, I went and checked for tickets anyway. The end of November seems to be the nadir of the low season, a travel time that is usually out of the question for us with a school child, and airfares were temptingly low. But this being an unplanned and un-budgeted trip, I needed to shop around and look for the best deal possible (while still arriving sane) and go by myself.
This is how I ended flying from Amsterdam to Jakarta via Brussels, with train tickets destined for Paris.
Budget airline is not really an option for such long distance flight and our home airport, Schiphol Amsterdam is an expensive airport with high airport tax and almost no choice of cheap airlines. So I started by looking at flights from nearby airports, such as Brussels, Paris and Dusseldorf, all reachable by train within 2-4 hours.
The best deal I found was a train + flight combo, from Brussels Midi train station – Schiphol – Jakarta by KLM for €487 return (train included). The exact same flight directly from Schiphol – Jakarta cost €600 plus. A huge price difference even after additional Amsterdam – Brussels train that I need to get separately. It meant 6 hours additional travel time, but it’s not often I get to fly to South East Asia and back for less than €500, I just had to grab it.
A few days after I got the ticket, The Kid got a leave approval from school and I decided to bring her along. Booking her into the same flight wasn’t so straightforward, as she is a minor, and I’m not allowed to book her a ticket without an Unaccompanied Minor Service. I contacted both KLM customer service and KLM Facebook page. While KLM customer service told me to go to a physical ticket counter, the Facebook community manager immediately booked her the flight for €445 and send me a link to pay for it, all via Facebook Messaging. Lesson learned: when in need of KLM customer service, go to their social media pages.
Both flights arranged, it’s time to arrange a separate one-way ticket to Brussels Midi station. I won’t be needing a ticket back, because once I arrived back in Schiphol and collect the luggage, nobody will care whether or not I board the train back to Brussels.
While a regional train for 1 adult + 1 child between Amsterdam Central Station and Brussels Midi cost around €40, and a high speed train Thalys cost €108, there was a special offer for Thalys Amsterdam – Paris for only €50 for both of us (so it is half the price for twice the distance). This connection always stops in Brussels Midi, it’s faster and with no transfer in between, there is less risk of missing the train back to Schiphol. I bought the tickets to Paris, making sure there is plenty of time to get off in Brussels, get my tickets back to Schiphol and get on the other trains.
On the day of the adventure, we made it out of the house at noon, going to the train station by bus. We were travelling light, with only one bag meant to be checked in, another as hand luggage, a backpack that The Kid wore herself, and my small handbag with all the super essentials. We bought lunch at the station, boarded the train at around 1pm and arrived in Brussels Midi before 3 o’clock. I quickly went to the International ticket counter and received my train tickets back to Schiphol which would depart just before 5. In the meantime we strolled around the station, had some snack, and bought some Belgian chocolates.
We arrived in Schiphol at 6:30pm and we needed to swap our train tickets with the boarding passes. The KLM check in counter will ask for your train tickets and see if it’s stamped properly to make sure you actually took the train. They almost didn’t let us check in because the train conductor hadn’t stamped our tickets with the date and time, but in the end it all worked out. We had little time to eat dinner before boarding, and by the time we sat on the airplane at 9:30 in the evening, we’re both pretty exhausted, but happy to know that we get the 3-seats just for ourselves (another perk of travelling in low season). There was a short fuel stop in Kuala Lumpur where we had to step out and stretch our legs. The Kid was disappointed that the airport’s Jungle Walk was closed, but we’re soon back on the airplane, and this time it was more packed than before.
We landed in Jakarta at 6pm local time, which was 12pm Amsterdam time, 24 hours after we left the house for a trip that supposed to take 16 hours instead. We were exhausted, but I was glad that everything went smoothly, and The Kid was happy to arrive in a warm place, and immediately asked to eat something because she was hungry.
The trip home was less eventful. We got on the flight, and we ditched the train back to Brussels. I also booked a taxi home because it’s 7am and my coat got totally soaked by a punctured beer can in the bag and there was no way I could take public transport.
Was the deal worth it?
I think so. It was a price cut of around €250 for the two of us.
Would I do it again?
Only if we’re travelling light, got plenty of time to spare and there is a substantial price difference compared to the direct route.