The verdict is in for my summer vacation: I’m going to Malaysia!
While I still have my two feet in Montreal at the moment, I thought I would share the thought process that led to this destination.
I’m still waiting to win the lottery (it would probably help my odds if I bought tickets more than twice a year), so in the meantime, I need to plan my trips according to my budget.
For budget travel, I like Asia. Once you get there, everything looks so cheap, especially compared to North America or Europe.
You can find hostels for a few dollars, and nice hotel rooms for a reasonable price. And chances are that you can find extremely nice hotel rooms at the prices of normal rooms near Times Square in New York.
You can eat for almost nothing. If you stick to local food and local markets, you’re looking at a few dollars. If you’re feeling for a restaurant that serves local cuisine, maybe 10 $. And if you fancy pizza or pasta, 12 $ will do the job. (You can also splurge and pay much more, but if you want, there are many cheap options).
You can fly around countries for next to nothing. Last year, I booked a flight on Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore that had a base fare of 0 $. Add the fuel surcharge, airport taxes and baggage fee, we were looking at a 35 $ ticket. This year I booked four different flights on Air Asia that cost in total less than 300 $. One of them had a base fare of 4 $.
So if you’re on a budget, Asia is a really good place to go. Especially Southeast Asia.
But from Montreal, the flights are much more expensive to go to Asia than to go to Europe… For me, the extra on the flights would be offset by the savings on the hotels and the food.
It’s not just about budget. You have to consider what you want to do!
Walking around a city? Hiking a mountain? Scuba Diving? Laying on the beach? Visiting museums? I could go on and on…
For this trip, I wanted to see some nice scenery, relax, scuba dive, see the ocean. My main focus was to find a place where I could do a few days of nice scuba diving.
Every place has its best visiting time of the year. And someone always makes a point to thoroughly the weather for me when I talk about a potential destination… (Hi Dad!)
Honestly, I didn’t really do my research based on the weather. I came up with destination ideas and checked the weather after. I tried to find a destination that the wet season wouldn’t have hit yet.
With that in mind, how did I choose Malaysia?
Since I knew I wanted to go to Asia, I kept checking for flight prices. Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo, Manila, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Bejing. I kept all my options open, but didn’t really want to go to Japan or China this time around (I love both countries though and will return for sure!).
My initial idea was to fly into Bangkok and then head south to Krabi and Koh Phi Phi. The prices for the flights were around 1,450 CAD$, which is a bit on the expensive side of what I was hoping for, but as I said, once there, everything is cheaper.
But it’s the wet season in Thailand during that time of the year. Even though when it rains, it’s usually a big storm for an hour or two in the afternoon, it can also be all day. So I kept looking.
And then I saw those cheap fares on United. 1,150 CAD$ for Singapore. That is not expensive! But it’s on United. Should I buy the tickets or should I not?
Singapore is a great hub for many places. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand for example. So I paid 18 $ to hold the tickets for 7 days so I could have time to decide if I could arrange a nice trip from Singapore.
Researching the destination and planning an itinerary
I went to Indonesia last summer (and Singapore and Kuala Lumpur), and even though Indonesia is a really big country and I saw only a tiny portion of it, I wanted to check out Malaysia a little deeper.
After a little Google search, I found out that June-July, when I wanted to go, is a really good time to visit the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula and the Malaysian Borneo.
I also found out that there was some fantastic scuba diving and some fantastic beaches. And that there were some nice hotels that would fit in my budget. And since the plane tickets were less than the flights to Bangkok, I could use the difference to book some better hotels!
I finally researched the flights inside the country. There were some decent options with Air Asia. The schedules were not the best ones for my liking, but I could work with that.
With all that in mind, I decided to book the tickets from Montreal to Singapore! And I’m heading to Malaysia!
Planning a trip is sometimes complicated when you have set dates you want to leave. But my usual workflow is the following:
- Set my budget
- Find good plane tickets
- Figure out which activities I want to do
- Find out potential destinations
- Check the weather at those potential destinations
- Evaluate all options considering the factors above, as well as possible itineraries at that destination
- Pick the best option!
What is your workflow to pick you next destination? Let me know in the comments below!