Instead of letting a travel agency plan a short trip for me, I decided to do it myself. The places I decided to visit in Thailand were Chiangmai and Bangkok (from Singapore). Was it a good or bad decision? Perhaps you can answer the question after reading what was involved in the planning.
It will be my first time to visit Chiangmai followed by a stopover in Bangkok where I have been a couple of times. The stay in Bangkok was mainly for shopping because I like different places and things you can see, do, eat and buy with great ease. Why Chiangmai? It has a colder climate and back to nature surrounds compared to Bangkok city. I also wanted to experience a day out with an elephant and do some light hiking and Chiangmai has a lot to offer for it.
To start planning for this trip, I asked myself what would be the most important thing to solve first? It was clear that I have to get there and stay somewhere when Im there so I started looking for the best deals on flights and accommodation for Chiangmai and Bangkok.
The online method was my main tool for doing this. I checked for the best prices for flights and accommodation via websites like Asiatravel, Asiarooms and Agoda that gave me a good sense of price range. I would also refer to Tripadvisor to check out reviews made by recent travelers on specific accommodations.
The choice of accommodation in Chiangmai and Bangkok were many. Strange I wish there were less options because it can be quite scary to go through all of them. Based on my budget and preference of location, I reduced the choice. Then I eliminate them with bad reviews or be less comfortable due to location or amenities. This process took a few days before I decided to stay. It was good that I had some time to do this and when I made the reservations, I felt satisfied and confident because I had time to think through and make a more informed decision. Another plus factor with the time in your hands, you can scout for offers or discounts like early discounts, 2 nights get 1 night free etc.
Now for booking flights we tend to jump on budget airlines deals and fail to see the small prints. The offers would often be one-way flights and you must add all your bookings to know the final cost. It may well be close to the price offered by non-budget airlines. We also forget that budget airlines can take out luggage and not provide free food and drinks on flights. Nevertheless, Im still looking for deals from Jetstar and Air Asia, but will also check out other airlines like Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines that provide great deals from time to time.
I was quite surprised to book flights as I was wondering if it was cheaper to book return flights to Bangkok and Chiangmai via Bangkok, instead of from Singapore to Chiangmai, Chiangmai to Bangkok and finally, Bangkok to Singapore.
After some checks and online experiments, I realized that there were no direct flights to Chiangmai and I had to go through Bangkok. So I tried to book flights to Bangkok and find the next connecting flight to Chiangmai. When I did, I was worried about the risk and asked: What happens if the flight time is not long enough to catch the next flight? What happens if there is a delay in flight and I can miss the next? Anxiety level to do such bookings were too high for me. Thankfully, Thai Airways had a reservation system where I could leave it to them to resolve the connecting flights for me. As I plan to spend a total of 8 days I booked with Thai Airways indicating day 1 like Singapore to Chiangmai, day 4 like Chiangmai to Bangkok and day 8 like Bangkok to Singapore. Wala! Thai Airways proposed the flights that included the connecting flight via Bangkok to Chiangmai. The bonus was that the total cost was quite reasonable and the times were favorable to my plans. It certainly fits the trouble of arranging every flight with all the what ifs hovering over my head for a few dollars savings. It was really worth the calm.
Well, it covers what would be the most important part of the planning and the first preparation of the trip. At this time, I have to say that the fun of going to this trip begins from the planning. It was sometimes gritty but in some way I had to find out more about the place, the people, the options and it forms part of the preparation before going to the destination. In my next article, I will share with you how the travel plan was formed and if current events developed in Thailand can affect all the plans I have made for this trip. Get started.