The travel agent wooed us with her glossy catalogs. She explained the most popular route, the most visited places, a possible itinerary. Then she slammed us with the price tag.
The most popular route was not one we wanted to, or could, take.
Marco and I had decided to go to Indonesia for our honeymoon, a place we knew nearly nothing about. While I studied the land, the culture and the history, Marco spent hours searching for the best hotel for quality/price, he also worked on the flights price tag.
It’s not all the travel agents fault. She gave us an estimate based off of a few things that we said we wanted. That’s why, however, I’ve always preferred to do it myself. Though nothing beats the convenience of a travel agent, personal research helps me to understand my destination, and it nearly always saves money.
Marco and I had expressed interest in a direct flight. The travel agent was simply following our requests, but she never told us that a short layover would cut the price in half. We expressed interest in some small islands. She never told us that flights to those islands are some of the most expensive in the region.
Ultimately, however, Marco and I saved thousands of dollars with one little trick. We booked independent flights.
Direct flights from Milan to Singapore cost 800 euro, about $900, and took 12 hours. With a layover in Doha we spent 400 euro each, nearly $450, and extended our travel time to just 16 hours. We decided to get a round trip ticket from Milan to Singapore, then use one of Asia’s many budget airlines to travel within Asia.
With a classic multi-city ticket would have cost us about 1,700 euro, but individual tickets from Singapore to Yogyakarta, from Yogya to Denpasar, Bali and from Denpasar back to Singapore ranged from just 30 to 60 euro each; A significant discount.
Individual tickets can be booked anywhere. From domestic travel in the United States to the bigger trips abroad. Here in Europe there’s no better deal than Ryanair. Though of course the airplane is more like an airbus (there are no amenities and even less space) for flights that cost as little as 20 euro and almost never last more than 2 hours, I’d say it’s worth it. In fact, Ryanair is often significantly cheaper than train travel.
There are always disadvantages to booking independent flights. If you can’t get to the airport on time for whatever reason, you’ve simply lost the flight and your money, and the airline will not make it up to you. Not only that, but you’ll have to consider your baggage allowance as well. International flights often allow larger bags, but domestic and budget airlines do not, and will often charge you. It’s something to keep in mind when calculating the cost and packing your bags.
In our case, we allowed buffer days in Singapore before and after our trip to ensure we didn’t miss any connecting flights, and enjoyed them exploring the city-state. Instead of fighting with the booking websites to allow for a longer layover to explore the city, we had a built-in layover that could be as long or as short as we pleased!