Technology Bonus! After I narrowed down the destination list, the next step was to design an optimum itinerary, which can fly me the maximum miles in minimum amount of money and time. Before going to the travel agent, I referred to the efficient matrix.itasoftware.com to compare flights. That saved me multiple telephone calls and visits to the busy looking travel agent who would take a full day only to tell me that the desired dates are either unavailable or ridiculously expensive!
Three+ Countries in Single Airfare! And the outcome of the web search is an Open Jaw from Sri Lankan Airlines. Open Jaw? A type of air ticket which allows you to fly into one destination, say A, and then fly out of another, say B, unlike a simple return ticket, ergo saving backtracking costs and hassles, with nominal charge over the simple return ticket. So, I am doing three countries, i.e. Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka, in single airfare. Not enough? You can also add Thailand in the itinerary without adding anything to your airfare!
Fare Fares! I was feeling lucky after locking in the fare for a cheap Rs. 39,000 per person until a friend told me that he is doing the same route for Rs. 36,000! This is called the gimmick of fare classes: Y, Q, B, W, and so on. Finding: the cheaper fare of the two, i.e. the Y class, does not accommodate infants without a seat. So, no use for me!
For apple to apple comparison, also watch out if there is any built-in, so-called complimentary, insurance cost added to the airfare. You may always ask for insurance details from your travel agent and switch to a (family) package suitable to your needs substituting the built-in rip-off. Also, ticket with stopover, and not the layover, in Colombo will cost Rs. 1,700 more than to the one without the stay.
Layover Blues! With all this excitement I was about to overlook long layovers peculiar to connecting flights. Karachi – Kuala Lumpur, through Sri Lankan Airlines, is minimum 20 hours with a scorching 14 hours layover at Colombo! Luckily, there is a way out; the layover is much shorter, about two hours, for Karachi – Singapore flight, so doing the city state in the beginning of the trip makes sense.
What if Singapore is not in the itinerary at all? Then take a stopover, rather than a layover, at Colombo and do Sri Lanka first thing in the trip. And what if both Singapore and Sri Lanka are not in the itinerary? Then either stop dreaming about the cheap ticket or be ready for long layovers!
For Kuala Lumpur – Colombo either take the direct flight in the morning or the one that runs a little late in the day via Singapore. The earlier one connects to Karachi with the shortest layover and suits best if one wants to circumvent Sri Lanka on their way back. While the later flight is good for lazy honeymooners who also wish to have a couple of days stay in Sri Lanka!
Out of the Box! If you are also a victim of the out-of-the-box-thinking-syndrome and Malaysia-Singapore-Thailand-Sri Lanka is too cliché for you then adding any of the unconventional places, like Cambodia, Bali, Vietnam, etc, to the itinerary will help you in standing tall in the crowd! Don’t assume that this can be added to your return ticket let alone without a cost. You have to buy separate tickets to fancy your travel ego! And if you want to do it without breaking your pocket then do Air Asia, a no-frill airline based in Kuala Lumpur. To avail low air fares book at least 8 weeks in advance. I have already booked Singapore – Bali and Bali – Kuala Lumpur for three of us for around Rs. 30,000, all inclusive!
In total, I am paying around Rs. 120,000 for airlines tickets which will take us to four countries: Rs. 10,000 per person per country!