Plan Smart to Travel Smart with Skyscanner

Travel Smart with Skyscanner

Those days are gone when you planned your vacation by fixing a budget, packing your bags, calling out items “pajamas”, “undergarments”, “toiletries”, “medicine”, “journals”… and striking them off one by one from the list of “to take” items. Today planning of vacation is something beyond this; it has taken a new meaning.

Being an obsessive compulsive traveler is not a bad thing but it is always better to be prepared. While planning, one factor that worries us the most is budget. Whether it is overshooting the budget or whether we will have to miss out places due to lack of budget. A good search and planning helps to strike a balance. In this era of smartphones and tablets and with apps like Skyscanner planning is a pleasant experience and saves money too.

skyscannerWhy Skyscanner?

Skyscanner is one of the leading search engines that provide prices from all airlines, hotels and car rentals. Comparison of fares is easy. Price alerts can be set, various combinations of filters can be set, modify the search till you get the desired results. Other attractive features are: available in 30 languages, pricing in different currencies and most important it is free. Subscribe to their newsletter so that you never miss a good deal!

General Holiday Costs

Let us look at some of the general holiday costs:

  • Travel tickets
  • Visa charges
  • Travel Insurance costs 
  • Local travel
  • Accommodation
  • Food 
  • Souvenirs

You see those expenses in red; I don’t let my husband mess around with the budget for those.
Those in blue are unavoidable costs.
What remains are the expenditure on travel tickets, local transport and accommodation. With proper jodna and ghataana (read Hindi; adding and subtracting) these three costs can be brought to a minimum, a tourist/traveler can save a lot of money and have a hassle free journey.

Cost of travel tickets usually depends on what sort of ticket you get, how many stops, and time of travel.
Local transport is of two types; one from city to city and other within the city. For city to city travels the options are train, hire a vehicle or self drive a vehicle. The third option works out cheaper if you have an IDL and if you are traveling with a family. You save on cost of four different tickets and time spent on booking the travels. For travel within the city, there is no other better mode than your own feet. Walk, my friend walk! That way you can save money, see the city, feel the atmosphere, halt to take pictures, rest and then resume at will. Accommodation: The hotels right at the heart of city cost a fortune, so it would be wise to find one at the outskirts of the city. All screenshots are real time search result of Skyscanner website.

Dream Destination of 2014

From the lessons I learned during my previous travels and using Skyscanner apps I have planned the following trip for a four member family (2 adults + 2 children) for three weeks. The destinations are spread out over six countries: Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland and France; a distance of 2,264kms.

To travel smart to these destinations required little bit of strategy and planning. That will make the holiday a success, enjoyable and most importantly memorable! I availed Skyscanner to get rates of ‘flights, hotels and car rentals’ but I did not book through them. For booking I approached the airlines, hotels and car rentals directly excluding the various fleecing travel agents.

..

First and foremost I checked for direct and one stop flights to Frankfurt, Germany from Bangalore. The direct flight was 16K more than 1stop flight. So that was rejected right away. The 2 stop flights were priced slightly higher and finally I settled for 1 stop flight.

The left column indicated several airlines; I kept eliminating them cost wise and finally zeroed in to Etihad Airlines which had halt at AbuDhabi Airport. I repeated the exercise for 3 to 4 dates and found that the cost for the dates in April was much higher than in June. Further search with different dates in June I found that Sunday flights were costlier than Monday flights. That’s it! The dates of travel were fixed for 2nd June and 23rd June. You can set the search for whole year to see the rates if you don’t have any specific holiday time. The cheap flights formula advises holidaymakers to “book between 225 days and 104 days before flying when prices fall to within $10 of their lowest point“. The decision of when to buy really does make a huge impact on what you end up paying.

I did not book the flights through Skyscanner and neither through the travel agents indicated in blue in the box. Instead I approached the airlines directly and inquired about the prices on different dates. There was a difference of around 1K from the amounts mentioned by travel agents.

My net saving could be more than 80K! (53K (in Apr) to 37K (Sunday, June 1st) to 33K (Monday, June 2nd). Total saving = 20K per person). Am I not smart!!!

This 80K should look after my local transport cost!

At Skyscanner Car hire, I filtered my search to economy car with all features including GPS. This was the easiest exercise. I settled for car from Argus CarHire, costing Rs.43,500, that is approx Rs.2100 per day that is approx Rs.500 per person per day! Can a travel agent give me something more reasonable! Of course I have to add fuel charges to this and that should be divided by 4, which should be again nominal amount.

Here I would like to mention why I chose to self drive and chose Frankfurt as starting point of travel.

  • I get to decide my arrival and departure timings and not any tour operator.
  • Price of fuel is less collectively for a family when compared to individual tickets.
  • Loading rations and water in bulk in car reduced food costs to a large extent.
  • Comparing the car rental prices of Frankfurt, Zurich, Vienna, I found Frankfurt to have good lower costs than other bigger cities. In Prague I would face a language problem so I didn’t choose that city.
  • To experience the beautiful Black Forest drive as I travel from Strasbourg to Frankfurt.
  • Take small diversions along the driving routes to visit several World Heritage Sites. I have deep fascination for these places for their crumbling ruins and monuments.
  • Include Bratislava in Slovakia to itinerary, by making a day trip from Vienna, Austria. That
    increased the ‘country visited’ count to 6 to my daughters’ thrill.

I still have Rs.35000, which means I can indulge in some wine and operas!
.

Booking hotels proved to be a Herculean task!
The halts are planned in

  1. Frankfurt, Germany – 1 night 2nd June / 4178 in Frankfurt Hotel chain: Ibis / x1 = 4178INR
  2. Prague, Czech republic – 4 nights 3rd to 6th June / 4500INR hotel rating not good / 6200INR hotel rating reasonably good / x 4 = 18000INR or 24800INR
  3. Olomouc, Czech Republic – 2 nights 7th to 8th June / 4171INR Hotel chain Best Western / x 2 = 8500INR
  4. Vienna, Austria – 4 nights 9th to 12th June / 4954INR least rate, hotel rating not good / 7195 good hotel /  x 4 = 20000INR or 29000INR
  5. Salzburg, Austria – 3 nights 13th to 15th June / 5617INR good rating / x 3 = 16800INR
  6. Zurich, Switzerland – 3 nights 16th to 18th June / 8764INR in Zurich avg rating / x 4 = 35200INR
  7. Strassbourg, France – 2 nights 19th to 21st June / 6287INR in Strassbourg x 2 = 12600INR
  8. Frankfurt, Germany – 1 night 22nd June / 3890INR Hotel chain Ibis / x 1 = 3900INR
  9. 23rd June take off to Bangalore

The search was for single room for a family of 4. Not all hotels have this facility so the choice got limited there. Then I concentrated on  hotel chains so that the points would accumulate which we could redeem later. Few factors we kept in mind while selecting hotels were:

  • It should be hotel from some chain which has its hotels in the other cities we were halting. This earns us points and gets us more attention too from the staff
  • The location of hotel could be on outskirts of the city as the rates are lower.
  • Connected to main city with metro
  • Booking in advance got us lower rates, which again saved lot of money
  • Kitchenettes with refrigerators and microwaves in rooms

So the filters were set for Hotel Chains like Holiday Inn, Best Western, Ibis, along with least priced hotels. In Zurich the hotel charges were too high, but then it is not every day that we live ZURICH! I even set the filter for furthest first. Hotels away from main city center had slightly lower costs. The MAP feature helped in doing the selections.

There ended the search with Skyscanner. I approached the hotels directly to check the metro facilities nearby, whether rooms provided microwave ovens also tried for some additional discounts showing them my interest for making reservations.

Before I leave: The check list to tick before I leave

  • Check travel documents are in order
  • Check insurance documents in order
  • Check luggage for correct weight and size
  • Check weather forecast of destination points for packing  proper clothing

Itinerary

Information regarding what to see and what to do in cities Prague, Olomouc, Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich and Strassbourg were downloaded and saved.

  • Reach Frankfurt, take the car from car rental at the airport, checkin to hotel. In the evening visit a super market, load car with water and snacks to last 2 to 3 days.
  • After catching up with lost sleep, start fresh on 3rd June, morning hours. ESTD8.30AM. Drive 180kms approx, 2hrs, reach Rothenberg. Spend 4 to 5 hours touring the old town.
  • Prague 4th June and 5th June, have breakfast at hotel, take bus from hotel to Prague city,visit cathedrals, castles, walk around Old Town Square, time the visit to see the astronomical clock ring, walk across the Charles bridge, Old Jewish cemetery. 6th June, make a day trip to Karlstejn Castle.
  • 7th June, 8AM bid good bye to Prague, onward to Kutna Hora to visit the scary Bone Church there. Just reading about it is chilling! “…there are strings of skulls and bones hanging from the ceiling, skull candelabra, a display case showing skulls with wounds inflicted by various mediaeval weapons…”
  • Olomouc: 8th June, one day in Olomouc is good enough to cover the must see places there. This city too is listed in UN heritage sites.
  • Olomouc to Vienna, halt at Brno, 9th June: distance 74kms, 1hr approx. Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. Though I am not sure if six hours will be enough or not, we will have to eat while we walk.
  • Vienna:10th, 11th June, walking tour of Vienna, visit cathedral, visit UN building for daughters, visit a museum and I am sure there will be time and money for Opera tickets. 12th June, make a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • Vienna to Salzburg, 13th June, via Graz, see the Dom, have a good lunch. The City of Graz, is WHS
  • Salzburg: 14th June day tour of Salzburg, visit Mozart’s house, cathedral, Mirabell garden and Marionette Museum for my daughters. 15th June, day tour to Hallstatt Salt mines for my daughters.
  • Salzburg to Zurich, 16th June, halt at Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that inspired Walt Disney to stage the story of Sleeping Beauty.
  • Zurich: 17th June, day trip to Jungfrau. 18th June, day trip to Bern, visit Einstein’s home and cathedrals. Bern is WHS. Return and loiter around in the fashionable streets of Zurich, do little bit of shopping, I have saved enough you see.
  • Zurich to Strasbourg: 19th June halt at Basel another old city of Switzerland, it is a WHS.
  • Strasbourg 20th June: 1 day in city, walking tour through old town, cathedrals. This too is a WHS of France. 21st make a day trip to Nancy, France, a WHS of France.
  • Strassbourg to Frankfurt 22nd June: Black Forest drive and halt at Speyer, Germany.
  • 23rd June, Good bye Europe, take off for Bangalore.

Costing

Airfare: 33,600 x 4 = 134,400INR
Car Rental: 43,500INR
Hotel charges: 119,178INR or 134,978INR. (I have set price change alerts so I expect a variation in these prices.)

Total: 312,878INR
i.e.. 78,220INR per person for 21 days i.e.. 3,725INR per person per day! This is the estimate I arrived at while planning for our Europe 6 countries tour. How is that!!! Can any travel agent give me this deal, the same places, the same number of days?

Thanks to Skyscanner, planning is easy and saving is easy too! 
It is a rewarding experience!

)

This post is a winning entry in the contest conducted by SkyScanner.

 

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27 Responses

  1. Shaivi says:

    Wow! So detailed…a winner post Indrani!

  2. Anita says:

    Wow Indrani! This has such a detailed & smart Travel plan! A great deal of research has gone into this smart travel-strategy. You have mentioned all the relevant points that are a must for any traveler.
    Even I wanna visit Europe & now your Post is a good guidance. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂
    Best wishes.

  3. Nice choice of destinations. Nice post!!!

  4. Nice to read your post, Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes 🙂

  5. nice post.. all the best for contest 🙂

  6. Very informative and smart travel plans. A must follow.

  7. Sangeeta says:

    Such a nice, detailed post, Indrani! I am just amazed. Very, very informative!

  8. Seeta says:

    Wow that was such a detailed and insightful post! It's going to help me plan my future trips! Btw loved the expenses you marked in red, those are two, I never keep a budget for too, nobody should mess with those 🙂

  9. Such a detailed post and such planning skills. This is to be bookmarked by every travel enthusiast.
    All the best for the contest Indrani…

  10. Amazing Indrani. Well thought, well planned, captured even the smallest details. I think I should approach you for my next travel rather than a travel agent! You can be one of the best travel planners. All the best.

  11. ilakshee says:

    Hats off Indrani! All the best to you!

  12. Wonderful Indrani ! and this is quite expected from you..being such an avid and electric traveller . I think this is an winning post. All the best 🙂

  13. Namrota says:

    ahaa… fantastic… lovely choices too… best of luck!! 🙂

  14. Well planned and well written. All the best.

  15. Neo Prady says:

    A very detailed post Indrani..Admire you for your research n efforts.

  16. Great travel plan! This seems to be a 'Smart Travel Plan Tutor' for me! Thanks for this post… Best wishes for the contest! You deserve to win! Hope you win!

  17. Hi Indrani, This indeed looks like a plan. Well researched and detailed out :-). All the best with the contest.

  18. Useful and detailed post Indrani. Skyscanner will love it. All the best!

  19. Sudhir R says:

    Wow ! Why did you think I contacted you

  20. Nabanita says:

    Wow this is so detailed and makes so much sense! All the best and yes have a great vacation!

  21. Whoa, what was that 😀

  22. Sangeeta says:

    Congrats, Indrani! I knew it, I knew you would be a winner!! Have a great vacation 🙂

  23. Anita says:

    Congrats Indrani! I knew you'd win 🙂

  24. Very very informative. One can benefit from your exhaustive coverage of minute details. I fully endorse your views as regards travel within the City. Walk Walk Walk.

  25. Wow!
    Such a detailed plan. I loved the indepth plan for your visit.

    A well deserved victory, Indrani 🙂
    enjoy!!

  26. Smart planning! And detailed so well.
    I am not surprised you won!

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