Back in October, I wrote about our short destination list for our next trip in May. As it turned out, we scrapped the list and decide on a completely new destination. Costa Rica and Panama were out because of the wet season and flights to Mauritius were too expensive. We’ve been to Indonesia many times and prefer to be somewhere we’ve never been. Japan almost made it, but we are at heart sea-loving people, and we really miss being in a tropical beach after this wet Dutch winter.
I started with a completely new list of places with tropical beaches where it won’t be too wet in early May. The Caribbean seemed like an obvious choice, with many islands to choose from and generally good connection from Amsterdam. I spent an entire week scouring islands, flight itineraries and accommodation choices and narrowed it down two islands; Sint Maarten and Martinique. Sint Maarten/St. Martin was interesting for its split Dutch/French personality while Martinique is less touristy with very good flight connection to Amsterdam. In the end, the decision was made by browsing Airbnb for accommodation. Self-catering accommodation tends to be pricier in this area, especially in Sint Maarten and its proximity to posh haunts such as St. Barth, and options were more limited in Martinique. After pages of pages of accommodation listings, I still can’t find a place that felt ‘This is it, I’m so excited I want to be there already.’
At this point I swung the search to a completely different part of the world, if only for comparison, to the South of Thailand, and I was immediately spoiled for choices.
I did a quick check for weather condition and flights. Flights are plentiful, and affordable for the distance. Wet season starts in May on the west side of the peninsula, but it’s dry on the east side. Hoping that we may be lucky that the monsoon hasn’t started in full blow yet that early in the season, we’re willing to risk it and plan a week in Krabi area and another week in Koh Samui (the east side). Another deciding factor was that I fell in love with two properties, in each of the location, which I promptly booked. We found our destination after all!
One rumour I heard at the end of last year was that airfare was going to get cheaper due to fuel price drop. I wasn’t expecting a great bounty of super cheap flights, especially to popular destination such as Bangkok, but I did start to monitor ticket prices. At the beginning of January, I did notice the prices were getting lower across most airlines. I had my eyes on Lufthansa, since they had a reasonable return rate of around €575, and comfortable flight times and transfers. I waited as long as I could for the price drop until there were only 3 seats left for the cheapest fare to start booking.
I never completed the booking, though. Sorry Lufthansa, but I really don’t like your approach on requiring everyone to pay separately for each of the seat reservation on each leg of the journey (for us, it means 3 people x 4 flights = 12 additional seat charges). There’s no way I’m going to beg someone who actually paid for their seats to go somewhere so we can sit together as a family, and the possibility of the Kid sitting with complete strangers on a 10-hour flight is also not an acceptable one. The next best offer was Emirates at around €600, even thought it includes a red-eye transfer in Dubai, 30kg luggage and seat reservations are free, and they could also book us through from Bangkok to Krabi, so it sealed the deal.
At this stage, I would still have to arrange how to get from Krabi to Samui, from Samui to Bangkok, and a place to stay in Bangkok for one night, but after feeling like a day-trader with the ticket prices I really wanted to step back a little. I would like to give a bit of room to decide later whether to take the land/sea route or flying within Thailand, and since hotel prices don’t usually fluctuate so much for one night stay and there are thousands of places to pick from in Bangkok, I convinced myself to leave it for later.
I did book a flight from Samui to Bangkok just yesterday, though. Considering the other alternative is a 12-hour ferry+bus ride, a 1-hour flight is vastly the better choice, especially since we want to see a bit of Bangkok as well before flying home the following day.
If you’re wondering why we’re not spending more time in Bangkok, the most obvious reason for us was that we’re not keen on the crowded metropolis famous for its traffic jams when we can be on a more relaxed small town somewhere else. Another reason is our rented properties, each of them requiring us a minimal of 5 and 7 nights stay, and it adds up to only leave us 1 day to spare for Bangkok. Besides, next time we’re in Southeast Asia again, we can easily have a stopover in Bangkok on the way to somewhere else.
I know my travel planning can sound pretty crazy, perhaps with a tendency to over-planning. But the truth is, I do this because once I’m on the go, I won’t be in the mood for planning things, I actually want to enjoy being there, having the freedom to spend the days as we like knowing we have a good place to come home to at the end of the day (or not to leave home at all if we feel like it) and having the means to continue our journey without worrying about whether we could make it on the next flight or not.
What’s your travel planning style?