One of the first things on your planning to-do list for your trip to Southeast Asia will be buying a plane ticket. The cost of your ticket will be one of the main items on your budget, so it will pay to spend a little time shopping around, especially if you can do it online at the office. Even saving $50 will fund a few extra nights by the Mekong, so do your homework. You may also want to consider catching some budget flights within the region once you arrive.
Here are some points to keep in mind while you’re hunting down a ticket.
First up, research carefully where you want to go and draft an itinerary that still allows you some flexibility. Obviously international flights come into the capital cities, but in many cases secondary international airports are available in other cities. For example, Phuket, Hat Yai and Chiang Mai in Thailand, Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap in Cambodia and Da Nang and Saigon in Vietnam. So don't make the mistake of assuming you have to fly into the capital city.
Research prices for your long-haul flight from home to one of Southeast Asia's main hubs. Look online at the carrier's sites, check sites such as Adioso.com or Skyscanner and also give a travel agent a buzz – you never know where you're going to score the best deal. Consider flying with a legacy carrier into a hub such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. You can either kick off your trip in one of these cities, or look to then catch a budget carrier out to where you really want to go. Budget carries fan out from these hubs across the region.
Be warned though that a travel agent may not give you information about the budget carriers – that's why you'll want to research online yourself first, or use a tool like Adioso. Among others, check out Tiger Airways based in Singapore, AirAsia in Kuala Lumpur, Nok Air in Bangkok and Jetstar in Singapore and Vietnam. Routes and schedules are subject to change, with airfares changing almost daily, so research these sites well before settling on your final itinerary.
Air miles can add up quickly if you're coming from a long way away and plan at least a second trip in the next year or so. Investigate and consider joining a programme. Some legacy carriers may also offer regional tickets once you're in the region -- be sure to ask.
Study regional passes and see how they might either fit into your itinerary, or rejig your itinerary based on where the flights can take you. The Discovery Airpass, for instance, is a good-value flight coupon deal offered by Bangkok Airways and Lao Airlines.
Read the fine print. It can be worth paying extra for some flexibility to change your dates. Generally the cheaper the ticket, the less flexible it is.
If you're coming to Asia as a part of a round-the-world trip, don't fuss over having too many stops factored into the ticket. Instead, have either a single arrival and departure point, or one in and another out (such as into Bangkok, out of Singapore). Do any flying in the region with a budget carrier, otherwise the extra stops will boost the cost of your RTW considerably.
All the LCCs issue paperless tickets. You generally just need your passport, a booking reference and perhaps the credit card you bought the ticket with in order to check in. So there are no more flimsy tickets to lose or put through the washing machine.
The reason small print is called small print is because it has to fit a myriad of terms and conditions in. Expect your $5 fare to be bolstered by airport taxes, slight taxes, insurance, fuel levies and more -- taxes and surcharges can easily double the price of a ticket, so again, do your research.
Yes, it will only be a matter of time till you're required to pay money for oxygen on the flight. Until then, many carriers are now charging for checking bags. So if you're travelling light, look to save some money by booking a ticket that has no baggage surcharges.
LCCs can be ruthless when it comes to check-in times, often closing the check-in counter 45 minutes before departure time. If you arrive 43 minutes before departure, too bad, so sad. Again, read the small print, get to the airport on time and you'll be set.
Planning well is an integral part of getting the most out of your trip. Be it picking the right backpack, the right vaccinations or the right country, the simple decisions are often the most important.