Travel Tips: Framing your Trip

Like many people these days, I never use a travel agent to plan or book any part of my personal travel, and have become adept at using online tools to find the best value flights, accommodation and activities that are most suitable for my needs.
Traditional pre-booked travel usually involves staying at predetermined destinations or joining regimented tours that can run contrary to the excitement and spirit of travel, which for me is to roam where I please.
The ability to research and book online allows trip planning to be done ‘on the go’, itineraries can literally be worked out last minute while you are still traveling. This travel and photo blog contains my experiences and tips with this type of holidaying, what I call Travel on the Go.

Palace Steps - Seoul

The most basic aspect of framing your trip is to choose an Entry (A) and Exit point (B). Most of the time this will mean where you first fly into and where you fly back home from; assuming your main mode of transport is air.
For me this is an exciting part of the planning stage, as there is so much potential flowing from the multitude of possibilities, and although the trip is defined and therefore limited once the frame is in place, there is still the fun of getting from A to B.
It is a practical necessity that most international trips need to be framed before you leave home. Why? Because issues can arise with customs and airlines that may require proof of onward travel, i.e travel out of the country you are flying into. You can get around these requirements using open or refundable tickets or by meeting other requirements, but unless your trip length itself is open ended, there is usually an overall planning benefit to having a defined start and end point, particularly if you are traveling through countries that require visas to be issued before you travel.

The vanilla way to frame a trip is to fly into and out of the same city; the other option is to leave to go home from a place different than from where you arrived.
The advantage to return tickets is they are usually cheaper, the advantage to one way tickets is you don’t have to double back and can cover more straight line distance.

All Around - Shanghai

I always plan a trip from A to B then do an equation to work out if it’s better to return and fly back from A, or fly home from B. It’s a basic hassle vs savings analysis.
It could be comparable or cheaper to fly home from B, which is a no brainer, but if its $300 cheaper to fly home on a return ticket and costs $100 to get back from B to A then I need to have a think. Is saving $200 worth the hassle of going back to A? Do other aspects of flying from A or B need to be factored in?

Conveniently I was recently confronted with this exact scenario. Entry point (A) was Seoul, S. Korea, Exit point (B) was Tokyo, Japan. Return trip flying Sydney – Seoul $1190 AUD. One Way Sydney – Seoul $800 and Tokyo – Sydney $750 for a total of $1550, one way tickets were $360 more expensive in this case.
A one way flight from Tokyo back to Seoul was $150 AUD, so we could save $210 by returning to Seoul, which we did. Was it worth it? Yes. It was a bit of a hassle flying back; we lost a day in Tokyo, but gained a day in Seoul. There were three of us so we saved over $600, and we were able to leave some excess luggage in an airport hotel in Seoul, instead of carting it around Japan. An interesting fact about that trip, we traveled in a near circle, from Seoul to the islands at the bottom of Korea, across to the south of Japan by ferry then up to Tokyo and back to Seoul.
Turning this into a planning concept adds another dimension to the framing of a trip, and gives us two basic structures to work with: 1. Basic trip from A to B and 2. circular journey where A and B are the same (or close enough to make going back to A viable). So straight line A to B and circular A to B.

It follows that if a circular A to B route becomes the cost effective option due to proximity of B to A then a straight line A to B is more likely to be viable if B is a considerable distance from A and B is closer to your home destination.
This means A and B can be further defined as such – A = furthest place you want to visit. B = Closest place you want to visit.

We have enough now to apply a frame to a hypothetical trip. I’m planning a future trip to Europe from Sydney.
The closest place I’m interested in visiting is Istanbul in Turkey, the furthest Barcelona in Spain. Barcelona is A and Istanbul is B.
Using Skyscanner or map tool as described in previous post to compare multiple airlines, it’s immediately apparent that flying directly to Barcelona from Sydney is not my best option, with cheapest one way ticket starting at $933 with multiple stops.
Nearby Madrid is $871 on Etihad with a full day stopover in Dhabi is a possibility. There are a few other nearby possibilities with London the cheapest, leaving a day later for $698 on Philippine Airlines, including a day stopover in Manila.
One Way from Istanbul a month later ranges from $620 for Malaysia Air to $900 for Qantas. Return ticket to Madrid on British Airways is $1600.

If I was to fly into Madrid on Etihad and Fly out of Istanbul on Qantas it would cost $1771, $1491 if I were comfortable with MH. A cheap ticket from Istanbul to Madrid is $200 so the Straight line A to B is the best option here.

I have now successfully applied a frame to my trip buy picking practical and cost effective entry and exit points (A and B).
A is Madrid and B is Istanbul. I will enjoy a one day stopover in Dhabi on the way there and a couple of hours in the airport there on the way back.

Total cost is $1771 per ticket, though I know I can shave off a bit from the Qantas leg by using Frequent Flyer points, or reduce to $1491 flying back Malaysia Air.

The next blog entry will look at ways to travel on the go from A to B.

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