6 Things To Remember When Traveling With Friends

A couple of months ago, I was asked by someone I met in my Vietnam trip if I find it hard to travel with a big group of people and I said yes. In the past 14 months I’ve had 14 trips – 3 with my husband, 1 trip by myself & a couple with our son – but most were with friends. Traveling on my own would probably be ideal but of course I would always prefer to travel with my husband. And after all those trips with different people I can honestly say that among all of them (besides family of course), I can travel comfortably with my college friends. Because of those trips there are a couple of things that I will remember from now on:

1. I CANNOT TRAVEL WITH EVERYONE

In my personal opinion, this is just the same as saying that I cannot go into business or live with every single person I know. I don’t find it offensive if someone would tell me that they can’t travel with me because that’s just the way life is. I have my quirks, other people have theirs and some just aren’t bound to match. I’m very impatient and I like the pace that I’m used to and that won’t always work with everyone. I am definitely not perfect especially when I travel, so it’s silly that some people think they are. I find it foolish to think that some people assume that traveling with a big group of people is easy-peasy. It doesn’t make me like someone less, it just makes me not want to travel with that person because it’s just like a break-up waiting to happen.

2. ALWAYS SET EXPECTATIONS

One thing about traveling with my closest college friends is that we try to be organized (try is the operative word, we sometimes fail but we still do it). During our planning stages for our first trip last year, we would literally have “meetings” and figure out what we really want to do. We expected everyone to pitch in and help out with whatever they can. When we bought tickets, my friends went to work for only half a day so that most of us would be there to choose and purchase our tickets.

3. HAVE SOME SORT OF PLAN

Have a plan not to the point of total exhaustion but at least have a list of things that you want to do. We came up with an itinerary that was only followed during our first day but since we had a list of the places that we wanted to go to, we knew that we had to keep going and not spend too much time in one place.

4. WHEN ASSIGNED A TASK, FOLLOW THROUGH.

Warning: major rant ahead. From the get go, one of the recent trips that I took with friends was utterly disappointing to the point that I didn’t want to go and didn’t want to help out to avoid getting into confrontations. I don’t appreciate that they went behind my back and told my husband that they felt I was being too conceited because I was saying I was busy when they knew daw that I wasn’t (“wala naman siyang ginagawa diba?”) and didn’t want to help out and expect I wouldn’t find out. It’s not my fault that I have more time on my hands. I like my time and I love being a housewife and mother and I love planning other more important trips that I had. You tell me, if you had 4 trips in 1 month and one of those trips was a 3 week long trip around 5 countries that you had to take care of and one of the other 3 was supposed to be taken cared of by someone else what would you do??? Prioritize a trip that wasn’t supposed to be your problem in the first place? HELL NO. It’s not my fault that though it would’ve been very easy for me (yes that’s the conceited me talking to the person who said it!), planning that trip was NOT (not not not not not!!!!) in my agenda. And I don’t lie, if I say that I won’t help with something that you people said you’d do yourselves, I WON’T. I said NO at the beginning because I knew the tasks that I had to finish and you shouldn’t have expected me to do otherwise. After 2 consecutive trips that one of the girlfriends and I planned, I WAS DONE. And if you knew me as I assumed you did since I assumed we were friends, you’d know when I really mean something (like when were were in Macau and I was b****ing and you guys felt like I was kidding until you saw it in facebook- I don’t joke around and my face is an open book, my friends know that). Anyway, I don’t appreciate people saying that they are taking care of something when obviously they aren’t. I’d rather they say they weren’t and fix it because there is always a way. I’ve crammed for so many things in my life to know that there will always be a way.  And don’t fix something for the sake of getting it done without thinking about the overall plan. Research, plan & execute. Don’t say “ok naman lahat ah! (everything is fine!)” when obviously they aren’t.

Whew. Sorry about that but I just had to get that off my chest.

5. SET A FEASIBLE BUDGET

My husband would always tell me, don’t buy something you cannot afford. When it comes to traveling it’s the same thing, set a budget that you and your friends can work with. Discuss how much each of you are willing to spend and compromise. Do not force the majority to go along with what you want to spend. When I went to Hong Kong last year, I was the most picky about the hotel because I was apprehensive about Hong Kong hostels. I was fighting against it. I’d rather spend than stay in a hostel but due to budget constraints of the others we all decided to stay there and I was pleasantly surprised – not only was it cheap (though very small) but the location was perfect.

6. BE FLEXIBLE & BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE

I’m all for planning but when I travel I know that I should always make room for change – there are delays (no- several, long 20 min. bathroom breaks are not considered delays because they shouldn’t happen in the first place), I’d get lost, I’d get sick, etc. And I believe that when I travel with a big group, it doesn’t always mean that we should be together every single minute of every single day (except of course when you’re at the beach or in one resort just lounging around for days). I don’t think that’s possible because there will always be something the other person would want to do that I don’t. The best compromise would be to split up when needed. With my friends, no questions asked, we know we need around half a day to spend away from our partners. It’s fun and it lets us do the things that we want without having to worry about other people having to wait.

It’s never really easy to travel with friends- that fact is clearer now more than ever. But I am truly glad that I found people I can travel with. Pleasant travels everyone! 🙂

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Air Asia/Air Asia X

AIR ASIA, The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline

http://www.airasia.com

This low-cost, no frills Malaysian airline whose operations started in 1996 was the first budget airline in Asia. This airline’s international flights started in 2003 started flying to the Philippines (Clark) in 2005.

Since 2007, I have flown with Air Asia 3x. And I am happy to say that the quality of the airline and it’s service has improved since then.

July 2007 – Clark, Philippines-Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

In 2007, only 2 commercial airlines flew out of the Diosdado Macapagal Airport at Clark Field, Pampanga – Air Asia and Tiger Airways. Despite the distance of the airport from Manila, we tried both airlines due to the very cheap costs of their tickets. During our first flight with Air Asia, I was sorely disappointed simply because it really was a budget airline- no food, no tv and unassigned seats. The seats weren’t comfortable and the planes seemed old.

February 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Siem Reap, Cambodia

Fast forward to 2 1/2 years later, along with a couple more budget airlines (including Cebu Pacific and Spirit of Manila), Air Asia still flies from Clark. We had to stop at Kuala Lumpur for one night for each leg of our trip (to Cambodia and back to the Philippines) since Air Asia only flies to KL and Kota Kinabalu from Clark. Air Asia’s main hub can be found at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), more specifically at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). To our surprise the LCCT wasn’t the normal budget airport like the one in Clark and Singapore, etc. The terminal was big and literally hordes of people fly in and out all day. It felt like a regular yet slightly older airport to me. If you arrive with a couple of other flights, it will take you at least 30 minutes-1 hour just to get through immigration.

For the first part of our trip we looked for an airport hotel that where we could stay the night. Our options were limited to the Concorde Inn at the KLIA or the Tune Hotel at the LCCT (Air Aisa’s Budget Hotel). Technically even though the LCCT is located at the KL International Airport it would have been expensive for us just to take a taxi to the Concorde Inn and apparently a good 20 minutes just to get to the Main Airport. So we ended up staying at the Tune Hotel (there’s a free shuttle from the LCCT to the hotel or you could also take a bus for 1 myr). Making a booking at this hotel was similar to booking a ticket in Air Asia- the price for the room itself was pretty cheap but we had to pay for other necessities such as towels, air-conditioning, etc. We’ve stayed in cramped rooms before but I was utterly disappointed with this hotel- in my personal opinion this was the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Again, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the cleanliness of a hotel room and bathroom.; size – not so much as long as I could still walk around the room. Our room was SMALL – think of a small room and make it smaller, that’s how small it was. Our only piece of luggage could hardly fit the room. Imagine a bed in the middle of the room, headboard leaning on one wall and the 3 other walls just 2 ft from the sides of the bed. The bathroom on the other hand was fairly clean and was literally almost half the size of the room. But what totally ruined it for me were the ants – red ants everywhere. Fortunately, we didn’t have to stay long and had to leave the hotel at 5 am the next day.

After flying back from Cambodia we had to spend another night in Kuala Lumpur. We decided to stay in the city to see the Petronas Towers. We stayed at the Piccolo Hotel which was located at Bukit Bintang. It was a pretty good hotel. The hotel’s location was right in the middle of the shopping area. To get to the hotel we took the Star Shuttle which was a bus ride to one of the shuttles’ hub near the city center and a car ride from there which brought us directly to the hotel. Our flight was early in the morning once again so we took an expensive taxi ride back to LCCT (the concierge told us that there were no buses that leave very early for the airport; we found out later on that he was wrong). Our flight back was pretty decent and I was very happy with the way Air Asia had improved.

May 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Melbourne, Australia

AIR ASIA (Clark-Kuala Lumpur; Kuala Lumpur-Clark)

Just like our Clark-Cambodia trip, we had to stop in Kuala Lumpur for one night to and from Clark. We didn’t want all the hassles of our last KL trip so we really researched all our options (with a baby in tow we had to make sure that we stayed in a clean place that was accessible). This is why we ended up staying at Hotel@Sentral. We took the KL Rapid (Bus to the nearby train station and then a train to the KL Central Station – around 12 myr per way). I wouldn’t recommend this since it’s cheaper to take the Skybus. Ideally we could’ve walked to our hotel but since it was pouring when we arrived, we had to take a taxi for 10 myr for a 2 minute ride (Malaysian taxi drivers are the worst! They don’t use their meters and would always overcharge tourists). To go to the airport the following day, we walked to the station and took the SkyBus (Air Asia Shuttle – 9 myr one way) to the LCCT. When we got back from Melbourne, we stayed at the same hotel but we took the SkyBus to/from the Central Station instead (17 myr round trip). We loved the hotel due to it’s proximity to the Central Station (Bus & Trains) and the KL Monorail.  The flights were decent and I have nothing to complain about but because my 22 month old son didn’t have his own seat, it was pretty cramped. Also, checking in for Asia flights at the LCCT was a breeze.

AIR ASIA X (KL-Melbourne; Melbourne-KL)

I was very apprehensive about taking a long haul flight using Air Asia. First it takes 8 hrs to get to Melbourne from KL which is the same number of hours from Manila to Melbourne (it takes an additional 4 hours from Clark to KL). Secondly, based on my previous experiences unless you pay for the hot seats, the seats had no legroom whatsoever. Lastly, I would be carrying my little boy the whole time. But I was ECSTATIC when I found out that AIR ASIA X was really a new, big and clean plane. The seats were comfortable and had more than enough legroom (much much roomier than Philippine Airlines).  They still didn’t have free movies and stuff but it was fine. We did not upgrade seats even though I really wanted to since we didn’t want to pay more than we needed to. Our flight back to KL from Melbourne wasn’t a full flight so my son was able to score his own seat. In other words, I was very happy with Air Asia X. They really exceeded my expectations. The only negative thing I can think of was the long line at the check-in counter (at the Kuala Lumpur LCCT and even at the Melbourne Tullarmine Airport).

MEALS – We paid for our meals at the same time we booked our tickets. Apparently Air Asia sometimes runs out of food during the flight so unless you want to take that chance, you must pre-book your meals. For our Asia flights we didn’t book meals anymore since the hours were shorter.

LUGGAGE– The standard luggage allowance is 15kg per person which you need to pay for. Children without seats do not have luggage allowances similar to those given by bigger commercial airlines. You can upgrade your luggage allowance to 20kg, 25kg and 30kg.  We had to upgrade one of our bags for our Clark/Kl/Melbourne trip to make room for my son’s stuff. If your name and the names of your companions are in one ticket/itinerary only, you can share the luggage allowance. It’s better to pay for an upgrade beforehand versus finding out your bag is overweight at the check-in counter because the fees are quite high.

SkyBus– You can buy tickets for the SkyBus during the flight.

DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL Airport – Park and Fly (open parking lot) costs 90 pesos per night. There are also shuttles to/from Manila.

Overall, I would definitely fly Air Asia again; hopefully not in the very near future because it’s tiring having to pass by Kuala Lumpur every single time. I hope that sooner or later there will be direct Air Asia flights from Clark other than Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. But nevertheless I’m still looking forward to our future trips via Air Asia.

Countdown to Australia (1 day to go!)

The day before leaving is always a MAJOR stress day for me. Besides last minute packing, errands and office work there are a couple of things that we try to accomplish before we leave:

  • make sure that we leave behind copies of our passports, visas & itinerary
  • leave duplicates of our house keys and car keys
  • take out the garbage
  • make sure that our refrigerator doesn’t have food that can spoil
  • make sure that all bills are paid
  • notify our building security that we will be gone for a while
  • (before we leave) unplug all appliances except for the refrigerator
  • talk to staff regarding work/payments that are lined up while we’re away
  • last minute preps of ipod, laptop, ebook reader

Before this day becomes a crazy day, I will relish in the excitement of it all! 24 hours to goooo!!!!!! Can’t wait! 🙂 See you Australia! 🙂

Countdown to Australia (3 days to go!)

As much as possible, I try to pack light. If I need anything, I could always just buy that thing when I get to my destination. Since I also pack for my husband and son, I bought an Ipod touch application that I use to make things easier (‘I love travel packing” application; I have been using this for more than a year)!  And even though I can pack our stuff with my eyes closed due to our frequent travels, the oc girl in me wants to use this just to be sure. Some people don’t like unpacking but I enjoy that more than packing for a trip.

I usually just pack around a day or 2 before a trip but since this is a long trip with my son, I had to start packing his stuff early this week – he has a completely different list. I will probably start packing mine and my husband’s tonight.

My packing list (autum/winter):

  • tickets
  • passport
  • hotel reservation voucher
  • house keys
  • credit cards
  • cash
  • prayer book
  • rosary
  • wallet
  • jeans/leggings
  • skirt
  • pangbahay/house clothes?
  • shirts (tank tops, sleeveless, polos, etc…shirts that can be used for layering)
  • undergarments
  • sweaters (1 or 2)
  • jacket (2 for this trip – 1 all around jacket, 1 thick jacket)
  • scarf
  • thermals
  • socks
  • belt
  • jewelry
  • eyeglasses
  • sunglasses
  • black flats for me
  • rubber shoes for my husband
  • toiletries (shampoo, soap, facial wash, off lotion, nail clippers, razor, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissue, moisturizer)
  • kikay stuff (I hardly have any so this just includes – my carmex lip balm, lip gloss, primer, blush, mascara)
  • medicines (a bit ocd when it comes to medicines -advil, amoxicillin, band aids, betadine, eyemo – 2 kinds, biogesic, bonamin, chloromycetin, claritin, vit c, vitamins, fibrosine, hydration salts, solmux, glucolyte, diatabs, kremil-s, buscopan)
  • gadgets (this unfortunately doesn’t fall under the “packing light” category! cellphones & chargers, cameras & chargers & card reader & memory cards & batteries & lenses (2-3 dslrs & 1 point and shoot), ipod touch & charger, laptop & charger, ebook reader & charger, gps & charger, psp & chargers, *new* portable tv & charger, tripod, filters, headphones (3 – mine, husband’s and son’s), travel adaptor)