Well, this is it. The flights have been reserved and tickets bought. All I have to do is pack my bags and go. Well, after I make an additional booking for the airport shuttle. Why do I have to make this trip? This is not a vacation and I’ll be in and out in less than a week not counting travel time. I’m going to be visiting my ailing mother in the Philippines (more on this later) whom I haven’t seen since my father’s funeral. Before all the airline bookings, I learned quite a few things.
I don’t travel very much. In fact the last time was 11 years ago and before 9-11. Oh boy, have things changed and I’ve been struck clueless. First I discovered that there is hardly if any ticket price difference between using a travel agent, internet sites like Kayak or Expedia, or an airlines’ website. It used to be you could get the discounted bulk rates through a travel agent. Nowadays those prices are all over the web. In the U.S, the law now requires that all advertised prices must include taxes and fees, which I think is good so you know what your real total is. For example, the ticket I bought cost $630 before taxes and fees and $1070 after. That even includes a fuel surcharge fee. There is no similar law in the Philippines however. When I was researching prices, I was able to find a much reduced one way promo rate for one of the domestic airlines there. Much to my surprise, the taxes and fees cost more than the promo rate. We’re not even talking about the terminal fee that the airports require you to pay at the gate. You cannot prepay that one.
I didn’t get the lowest possible plane fare because I had to consider the logistics of my travel. The cheapest fare required an overnight stay in Hawaii both coming and going and if you have to stay in a hotel, that expense eliminates what you save on the plane fare. Other lower fares involved long layovers – as much as 12 hours, between Manila and my destination which is Zamboanga. So I had to find something with a layover of about 4 hours. I’m just hoping none of the flights are delayed so I don’t miss my connections.
Then there are these other optional cost considerations: baggage fee other than what you carry on, seat choice fee, travel insurance fee, excess baggage fee. It’s almost like getting a mortgage with all these fees!
Buying the Los Angeles to Manila ticket was no problem. I booked directly through the Korean Airlines website which quoted the same price as Kayak.com and the travel agent I talked to. Booking the domestic flight via the Cebu Pacific website was more problematic. By the way, the reason why I did two separate bookings instead of having a travel website figure it all out is because you can find cheaper domestic fares that way and a flight time that may be more advantageous to your schedule. That all looks good on paper and in perfect world without flight delays. So back to the Cebu Pacific booking. I entered all the necessary information and everything was okay until I tried paying for it with my U.S. credit card. Their system was not able to process the transaction. I tried another credit card with the same result and even tried paying in pesos with the credit card company doing the conversion (the credit card company conversion was a few dollars lesser). No cigar on any of my attempts. Meanwhile the credit card company alerted me for possible fraudulent activities via email and I had to call them to let them know that I indeed made those transactions. I really wanted to get that promo rate before it sold out and since my brother lives in the Philippines, I asked him a favor of booking the domestic flights for me. He was able to take care of that easily since he was very familiar with the system there. Much thanks again Larry J. Oh, and he also alerted me to the fact that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport now has three terminals. I only knew of one last time I was there. Thanks to the internet, I found out the layout of the three terminals and how to get from one to the other. So that takes care of all the flying concerns. I haven’t even started yet and boy, do my arms already feel tired (old bad joke).
The last time I traveled to the Philippines, I didn’t have to concern myself about charging electronic items because I didn’t have any. With at least a cellphone and a netbook I plan to bring, and owing to my clueless nature, I thought I had to bring a transformer or power converter too. Wrong on that count. I checked with the president of our running club who travels a lot and he enlightened me to the fact that the chargers that come with electronic devices nowadays have built in converters. Indeed when I checked the very fine print on these chargers with a magnifying lens, I saw that they could be used between 100 to 240 volts. That’s one less thing to worry about and I don’t even have to bring plug adapters since the Philippines uses the same two prong plugs that the U.S. does.
I think I might still have a dollar’s worth in Philippine pesos lying around. And now it’s time to dig out my old suitcase, passport, and review the TSA guidelines…
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