When I first started planning for the trip to Korea, I did consider taking up one of those “free & easy” packages offered by travel agencies. The benefit of these packages is that you can book your flight and accommodation in one place at one time, and then forget about it, since the agency makes (almost) all the arrangements for you. On the other hand, the major downside is the limited selection of airlines, hotels and travel dates offered by these agencies. I’m no experienced traveler, but having planned a couple of “budget trips” before, I knew I could get better deals elsewhere. Perhaps, being somewhat of a control freak when it comes to my finances also made me want to get the best bang for my buck. And I did, scoring round trip tickets to Seoul in October for under SGD 500.00 per person!
How? By booking Singapore > Kuala Lumpur > Incheon tickets (and back) on AirAsia when it was having a big sale back in December 2010. The exact amount paid per adult was actually SGD 478.98, which is inclusive of:
- Airport tax
- Flight insurance
- Baggage fees (15 kg to + 20 kg fro)
- Convenience fees
- Pick-a-seat fees
It also helped that the price for the KL to Incheon flight was in Malaysia Ringgit, so we managed to save more thanks to the strong Singapore dollar. In fact, you could save even more if you opted out of the extra services like pick-a-seat, baggage and insurance.
At present, there aren’t any other budget airlines flying directly to Incheon from Singapore, so that was the best we could get. In my opinion, the biggest downside to the arrangement is the hassle of having to check-in twice – once at Singapore/Incheon, and again at Kuala Lumpur – because AirAsia does not provide their flight connecting service (called FLY-THRU) for this route. Perhaps another minus point is the total traveling time, which would take about 12 hours. This isn’t an issue for me and my family though; we’re looking forward to exploring KLIA with whatever little time we have in between the flights! 🙂
If you’re planning your own trip to Korea (or anywhere, really) and looking to fly cheaply, here are a few tips I would suggest:
- Subscribe to email newsletters of budget airlines and/or follow them on Twitter or Facebook to be informed of the latest deals.
- Wait for their sales, which are usually held at the beginning of the month. I think AirAsia has a big sale on all their flights every quarter or so.
- Book at the start of the sale period, if possible. Tickets to popular destinations run out fast, and prices increase without warning within days or even hours, so don’t take too long to book them once you’ve decided on the dates.
- Don’t attempt to book during peak online traffic hours, i.e. lunchtime or between 6:00 PM to midnight. In fact, during sale periods, some websites might be busy all day! I would recommend you prepare all necessary documents before going to bed, and then wake up at dawn to do the online flight booking uninterrupted. (Don’t end up like me – after painstakingly entering the details of all 7 people in my travel group, AirAsia’s website hung up on me, and I had to do it all over again. I only learnt the lesson after experiencing it thrice.)
- Read the fine print! Budget airlines do not provide many of the basic services you may be used to with full-service airlines. As you can see, I even had to pay for check-in baggage per person per flight. So, before you buy any tickets.
Disclaimer: I’ve never flown with AirAsia before, so I can’t comment on their service. That’ll be done in another post after I return from my trip! 😉