Before I begin my rant about how I punched the internet in the face, I'd like to make it clear that I'm not a Luddite by any means. I love my smart phone, I have more than one camera, my laptop and I will get married as soon as the law allows. Technology in general is my friend, and for the most part that includes the baffling, massive, incomprehensible world of the interwebs. But sometimes, it makes me want to crawl into a cave with a book after throwing my computer out the nearest window.
This is never more true than when having to make travel arrangements online. I remember, back in the day, when people used travel agents. A nice lady in an ugly blue/red/yellow blazer would sit you down, hand you some brochures and calmly help you book some flights. I miss actual plane tickets, in a plastic envelope with a luggage tag, as opposed to a printed email. I know they charge commission, but lord above, it's so much easier!
Take out most recent saga while booking flights to Thailand for our holiday in January. The Lovely Gen is much better at this than I am, because I get so annoyed that I lose all focus and go make a cup of tea instead. First, we spent hours looking for cheap flights, using every conceivable website. Skyscanner, bookingbuddy, expedia, etc. Eventually we went directly to the Thai Airways website, which was a mission and a half. I almost took up smoking.
After trying to book the same flight 65 times, TLG eventually called the sales office in Seoul, who said that the booking system was down. Awesome. So we gave them all our info (only about half of what was required on the website, mind you) and they booked the tickets directly for a small fee. I mean sure, the emails got lost for a few days and we had to call a few times to find out what was happening, but it worked out. See? An actual person helped us! Tip: If you book with another person's credit card, they have to appear with it at the airport to check you onto the flight. Avoid that.
Fine, so international flights booked. Next: domestic flights from Bangkok to Krabi and back. Again, a nightmare. Searched for hours. Flights are bizarrely expensive considering they last for an hour. We eventually found return tickets for $140 on Air Asia, which we thought was a bargain. Not! While going through the booking process, they add on all sorts of shit, from luggage fees (anything over 7kgs has to be checked in, and you have to pay per bag), seat assignment fees (if you say no, you might not sit next to your travel buddy), food costs, travel insurance, etc. You don't choose all this, they give it to you and then you have to know to uncheck it.
|Eye on the prize. Eye on the prize!|
Yay, flights finally booked, $800 later. Next: accommodation. Doing this online takes a lot of time. I think I spent around 10 hours just looking at places in Bangkok, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. You have to do this, because while agoda.com might have great prices initially, once they add on all the other fees it's not so cheap after all. You have to do your research, and eventually we used agoda, travellerspoint.com (excellent, no random fees, but not as much to choose from) and sawadee.com.
Also, who the hell takes the pictures at these places? They look like Annie Leibovitz popped round to shoot a few snaps when you look on the internet, but when you actually arrive at the place it's a different story. And! In the very small print at the bottom of the last page, it tells you that the bargain prices put you in rooms without hot water. Tip: read the reviews of a place on a variety of sites. Some booking sites only post the nice reviews, so a hotel with an 8/10 drops to 6/10 on a more honest URL.
|Me in January|