Tales from the 2012 Travel Expo

18 February 2012

This was my first visit to the Travel Tour Expo which started yesterday and will run until tomorrow. I was hoping to compare the cost of airline tickets at the event with those sold online.

We arrived at the SMX Convention Center slightly before 10 AM and the line to the entrance had already stretched all the way outside and was at least four people deep. So we decided to eat first and by the time we entered the venue 30 minutes later, the place was packed especially where the local airline carriers were located - Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express, etc.

Our first stop was PAL and it's a good thing my mother-in-law was with me as the queue for senior citizens was much shorter. As to the prices, I will first have to mention a few things:

- PAL kept reminding people over the loudspeakers that their promo rates are also available with accredited travel agents at the expo so no need to line up just with PAL.

- Expo rates are only valid for two to three months so for those staying longer, no promo.

Though for my mother-in-law who's going to Los Angeles (LAX) from Apr 28 to Oct 25 (six-month valid ticket), there was a small USD 68 difference:

Price online - USD 1484 WITHOUT the Php 1620 travel tax.
Price at the expo - USD 1453 WITH the Php 1620 travel tax.

For those planning to take advantage of the discounted rates, here are the sample fares:

MNL-LAX-MNL - departing MNL Mar 1 to 28:
USD 1025 - 3 months valid
USD 925 - 2 months valid

MNL-LAX-MNL - departing MNL Apr 8 to Aug 31:
USD 1235 - 3 months valid
USD 1085 - 2 months valid

All rates inclusive of airline taxes EXCEPT the Php 1620 Philippine travel tax.

If you buy a ticket online right now, the lowest fare available is USD 1085.90 for March 7-31 without the Philippine travel tax. That's a difference of at least USD 161 - that is if your dates are flexible.

I also picked up a flyer from Cathay Pacific (CX):

I found this interesting because when we were shopping around for December tickets to LAX last year, the cheapest fare we could find was either on China Southern and EVA Airways for roughly USD 915 to USD 1200. I've just checked online and CX is USD 941.50 for Dec 15, 2012 to Jan 4, 2013 but one would need to buy the ticket immediately. Even then, I'm thinking that's not bad as I prefer CX to the other two aforementioned airlines.

Actually, our first priority is PAL because it's a direct flight but at USD 1179.90 online for the same dates, that's a difference of Php 10,250 per passenger. Considering there will be two of us travelling, that Php 20,500 can be used for shopping instead.

There were also booths from different countries such as Japan, India, Thailand, etc. I got brochures from the Hong Kong Tourism Board along with an updated city map. Based on my experience, it's so much easier to plan a trip with an actual map and it will prevent you from wasting a lot of time criss-crossing the place if your itinerary is planned accordingly.

So is it worth going to expo? Yes if you have a specific destination in mind and you've done your research beforehand.

Five Years

11 February 2012

We marked five years of marriage by staying at the Taal Vista Hotel. This was also where we checked-in the night before our wedding and celebrated our first year anniversary, so when they had a promo on Deal Grocer, we decided to take advantage.

The rate we paid for the Premier Room was Php 4,863 nett (originally Php 8,400 nett). It came with buffet breakfast for two, free internet access and welcome drinks at the Lobby Lounge (which turned out to be iced tea). But what we really liked about our room was the view:

There were a couple of large cracks on one of the walls, the shower area had a bit of mold, and the small container of lotion had already been half used by the previous guest, but the view of Taal Volcano from our balcony more than made up for everything.

Dinner was at the Mile Hi Diner. The food was not bad though it was the first time I've ordered buffalo wings that didn't automatically come with a dip. Usually, they'll charge only for the extra dip (and in some establishments, it's free).

Honey Barbeque Buffalo Wings - Php 145
Ranch Dressing - Php 20

Mozzarella Stuffed Burger - Php 240

We also ordered a Taco Salad (Php 160) which I felt was a bit dry. I mentioned this to the server and she offered to give us more sour cream (which was what the dressing consisted of) but Earl declined because he liked the salad as is.

Since we were still a bit hungry, we ordered French Fries (Php 70) which we both enjoyed as it was similar to the ones served at KFC.

The weather in Tagaytay that night was a bit chilly though not as cold as the one right before our wedding where we actually needed to turn on the car heater! But all in all, we had a very relaxing overnight stay and can't wait to do it again.