Friday, 21 February 2014

Planning multi-stop trips with Indie,

Bali sunset

Since young, my parents have inculcated the spirit of travelling within me by encouraging wanderlust and exploring beyond my comfort zones. And indeed, through the years I've been blessed with many wonderful opportunities to be able to explore foreign lands and experience various cultural sights that not many can speak of. This gorgeous of a sunset was taken on board a budget plane to Bali (Indonesia), a spontaneous weekend getaway with my close friends just last month when classes started. Admittedly, I have been on many plane rides but that one thing which never fails to make my heart flutter and skip a beat is the sight of my foreign destination the very moment the plane commences to touch down. Surreality at its best.

Before my stay in Europe, I've always thought of my dwelling in my home country to be semi-permanent and rigid - the geographical distance, the safety issue of travelling and being female (especially the nags from everyone, which does have an element of concern but the reasons they generate gets under my skin sometimes) and of course the typical Asian parents' warning to not come back adopting cultural values of the west and forsaking our own. But slowly (and surely) I warmed up to the idea that we are more mobile than we think we are....and there's so much of this place we call home to see and feel. The world's our oyster, cliché but isn't it true?

Yet of course, there's always the much needed balance between work and play, which resonates with a new travel philosophy of being grounded with wings (I see you cringing there hahaha). No fanciful play of words or concepts there, but just a no-frills concept of being able to take off to explore the world for what it has to offer, yet still being grounded in my values, beliefs and principles of my heritage and home, and never forsaking what is close to my heart.

This coming May after graduation, I'll be taking on a solo trip to the US to visit close friends and enjoy my last bouts of freedom before officially starting work in June (excited for my future work prospects!). Previously, I've been to the States once for an international leadership conference at a tender age of 14 and that was in itself an eye-opening experience on its own because it taught me the value of being opinionated, vocal and confident, soft skills that I (hopefully) still embody till today. So I'm really keen to return to explore the other parts of the States! And this time I'm returning as a grown independent lady, and travelling solo - because I believe that every woman should have the opportunity to be empowered to travel alone at least once in her lifetime. Especially in Asia, women travellers are still not very common in this modern era, and I really hope to debunk that stereotype that all women just want to stay home and be taken care of 24/7. 

When doing much research on the trip planning and booking, I stumbled upon this useful travel tool called Indie which has made the process of hopping from one country to another incredibly easier that I just have to share my humble opinion with!

Indie is a global trip planner to help you unravel your travel, as its tagline says best, and helps you sort out your transport itinerary and gets you the optimum travel route / cost effective way. Available online and accessible to all, it's an initiative that is part of the Bootsnall Travel network which was started by backpacking travellers in 1998. A discovery by the group of friends who created the network that "travelling was life changing" sparked off the online concept and since its humble origins, the network has grown into a community of over 100,000 members and boosts of being featured on articles and excellent reviews on many mediums. Yet, I found that the site has generally been underrated, hence this detailed review.

Giving a bit of background detail for my trip planning: my priorities for the booking of flights was to fly to Chicago from Singapore, book my domestic flights separately on another day, visit a close friend in Tokyo for a layover on either the outgoing or incoming flight (I did prior research for this, and because there were no direct flights from Singapore->Chicago, Japan was a good in between stop and this fit into my plans perfectly even though finding the correct timings and prices was havoc) and then return to Singapore back from San francisco. I had tried for many days to manually combine and calculate air fares from various airline websites and emailing travel agents for various combinations, such as through JAL, Cathay pacific, Emirates, Singapore airlines, Scoot, Air asia, STA travel, etc. and even through various combinations of one-way tickets, open-jaw tickets, round-trip tickets and multi-city tickets. (I thought I was smart to buy a round trip ticket for Singapore->Japan and then a round trip ticket for Singapore->US). Even worse was that I had to make sure that I had enough time to catch connecting flights...eventually I did come up with a lethal combination which helped me saved a lot of money, but the travelling time was almost double the time needed and I had about 15 hours of layover in Narita airport which Tripadvisor says is not a 24-hour airport. This was immensely frustrating because I needed the time to focus on my coursework to graduate and I had an academic paper at hand to complete.

Thank goodness for Indie, this was made so much easier! While I still had to manually try different combinations, this was facilitated by automated calculations and an easy click of a button. I've kindly broken the process down into 7 easy steps you might want to utilize:

Indie Bootsnall

1. Locations
Key in your designated locations here and click on the correct airport. Once it appears on the list, you can shift the order around, don't forget to add your home country as the last location if you're planning to return back! Try different combinations to fit your budget, you'll be surprised that sometimes adding more locations will not drastically change your price.

2. Dates
Key in your dates here, the travel dates are price sensitive.

3. Land or air?
If you're planning to make your own transport arrangements other than flying (e.g. taking the train, roadtripping), you can click the airplane symbol and switch it to a mountain symbol. This means that you plan to exclude this leg of the trip from the airfare search and that you have alternative transport means. Hovering your mouse over reveals: "Click to exclude this segment from flight search. You plan to arrange your own transportation for this segment, such as via train or a frequent-flier flight." I haven't had time to decide my arrangements so I left it as other arrangements tentatively.

4. Visual map
For all you users who are more visual in planning your travels, this map will help you visualize your flying pattern and it shifts according to how you order your destinations. Gives you a quick glance of your route and whether it's productive in terms of time and efficiency.

5. Save
Save it to your account for future reference or to continue planning another day.

6. Search
Clicking on search reveals 3 different itineraries that Indie plans for you after searching for good valued flights according to your planned routes: Lowest price, Shortest travel time and fewest stops. If you don't like these plans, you can always customize them accordingly, just click edit and choose the other options available and the price will be reflected immediately (e.g. choosing a stop with a layover instead of a direct flight may help decrease the price). They may also present you with various options which you can scan through and decide.

Once you're done deciding your various options, you can click book and viola!

Indie Bootsnall

Indie Bootsnall

Indie Bootsnall

7. Share
Share it with family and friends to keep them in the loop, or to seek advice from!

Indie Bootsnall
8. Other tools
Indie also offers free advice on your route and itinerary with the click of a button by filling up this short form, this is located at the bottom left hand side of the site.

Indie Bootsnall

Indie Bootsnall

What makes me genuinely love this concept is that the founders and staff themselves are so friendly and willing to help you with your itinerary! Once you book your itinerary, you get an automated message asking if you need any help with your trip, along with some details (love how their email signatures tag along their skype IDs in case you prefer to talk face-to-face instead of emailing back and forth). Their website also has a wealth of travel guides to read up on or featured articles to drool upon (check them out here) and after you make your booking, they send you snippets of articles talking about how to plan your trip (i.e. estimating budget, how to travel long term, what are your motivations for travelling).

 Personally, I had a lot of trouble with booking my itinerary through Paypal and my credit card (disclaimer: problems were with my credit card provider and not Indie), yet Dave was extremely patient throughout the process despite being in a different time zone.

Prices wise, I can say that the prices were very competitive and I was indeed pleasantly surprised! Prior to this, I did intensive searches and manual calculations for the perfect combination and airfare, and even approached STA travel who gave me 3-country-layover flight for both outgoing and incoming trips for a relatively higher price - none of the prices were as competitive as the one I got from Indie. Granted, there were a few good ones, but they had long layovers at unearthly times or had more than 2 layovers. Indie is really quite a useful travel tool, and I would definitely use it in the future given the opportunity to have a multi-stop trip once again!

Hope this was helpful, ciao and happy travelling! ♥

No comments :

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...