Wednesday, May 21, 2014

C is for Change - Tips to handle changing travel plans :)

It was apparently Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said "Change is the only constant" (Yes obviously I had to google that one, the quote is so well known but not who said it :P). And this was the case with our holiday planning as well. From figuring out which hotels to stay in, to the actual dates of stay at a particular place, things kept changing for a couple of weeks until we arrived at the final itinerary. Some of the planning sites/tools that helped:

Expedia: Other than the convenience of booking everything in INR, the important thing to look out for is the "Free Cancellation" mentioned when choosing a type of room at a hotel. This usually costs a bit more, but it turned out to be a saviour when our plans changed, and I was pleasantly surprised that the credit back to the account also happened within 2-3 days of cancellation. This also made me happier with my choice to go with hotels rather than sites like airbnb (Compelling reason for that choice: No shared bathrooms :P).

Southwest Airlines: Once you create a login on Southwest, it allows you to cancel or change your bookings while crediting the amount back to your Southwest account even if not refunding in cash. The only hitch is that you have to make a new booking in the name of the same passenger that you canceled for, which means you can re-plan only so many times within a fixed itinerary. My strategy was to leave the last couple of bookings for the end, so that I could do any re-adjustments with remaining cash while completing those. Worked well, though I say so myself ;).

I know I have mentioned Southwest quite often already, but the convenience of planning on it has been really great. Only hitch might be that they have no seat assignments so for a family of 4 we might need to reach the airport and check in a bit early on each flight to be able to get at least 2 seats together every time. Once again, wish us luck on what's definitely going to be an interesting holiday and the most detailed one I have ever planned :).

Note: Too late for that luck ;). I had written this post before leaving, but didn't manage to wrap up and post it then :P. Wanted to add that the Southwest boarding procedure is actually very cool, and is based on the time that you check in. Online check-in starts 24 hours before departure, and you will be assigned a boarding group (A,B,C) and a number (1-60). Boarding the flight starts 30 minutes before departure, and goes from A-C groups seamlessly. Hidden advantage of traveling with young children - they allow you to board between Group A and B anyway ;).

All Set! - at the swanky Bangalore Airport

4 comments:

  1. Sounds ideal to fly Southwest then :) I remember I flew United when I visited. Since most of them were short-haul flights, the seats didn't really matter. The advantage of the 24-hours before to check in is really ideal and a practice I follow till today. I don't always get the seats I want, but I can't be blamed for not trying ;)

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    1. Yes I try to do that in any case too, but with SW I literally set an alarm to be on time for the check-in :). The fares in their non-refundable category were really the most affordable, and they are the only airline to still allow the 2 pieces of check-in baggage for free. Apparently they will be starting a lot of longer flights from October (right now, they are bound by some regulations so lots of routes have stopovers), so definitely a great choice for anyone traveling domestic US. Hmm.. should ask them for a commission of some kind for all the praises I've been singing? ;)

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  2. Aparna, Visa is something that would be interesting to know. We are planning our trip for 2015 Summer.

    What it takes for us to plan the visa requirement? What would be the associated cost? Things to be sure about are things that can really be helpful :)

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    1. Thanks for dropping in Mahadevan :). I did the entire process online and it was quite straightforward, will write a post on it as you've given me an idea for V now ;). Cost worked out to about 10K per person as of early 2014.

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