It’s that time of the year again! When the travel itch crops up and I know I just have to scratch that itch. Picking the destination is, this once, not so much of a hassle as I know exactly what I want – rolling hills, verdant greenery, thick mists, drizzling monsoons. It has to be a hill station. The second most difficult task is finding flights and stays. Considering I’m a budgeteer, I aim to ensure that all my trips within India do not cross the Rs 25,000 mark (all inclusive). While compromising on stays is relatively easy, last minute trips often mean shelling out a massive chunk for flights. That is also my biggest worry as I realise I have exactly 65 days to book my tickets – a timeline which I deem too short to snag those amazing deals.
But the heart desires what it does and it is with a one-track mind that I begin hammering my laptop keyboard. It is on Friday evening that I first discover that the flight rates are crazy. I have around 15 tabs open – each with a different flight aggregator. From MakeMyTrip, ClearTrip to AkbarTravels, I have them all open. And they all show me different timings and different rates. As I scroll through, I finally discover one combo that looks doable – a late morning flight from my town to the destination and a late afternoon return flight option. But unfortunately, as fate has it, I cannot complete the booking as something else crops up. But mind made up, I decide to finish the task the next day. I even have the local transport and the itinerary planned out, imagining how the trip will go. Just me being excited me.
The next morning, while battling the first heavy showers of the season, it is to intense horror I discover that the flight rates have more than tripled overnight! For the exact dates I wanted. Did everyone wake up and realise they could fit the same trip during the same days I decided on? From nearly Rs 7,000 for return airfare, the rates shot up to over Rs 7,500 one-way! Plus the timings changed. I was definitely heart breaking. I definitely do not want to cancel the trip but realise I might not have any other option. I decide to see if I can tweak the dates around – sure, it means added leaves but then even with added leaves is it worth spending that high an amount on a little over 2-hour flight? The hunt begins again but nopes, even with the changed dates, nothing seems to be working.
Finally, I decide to open up individual airline sites and check. So open up SpiceJet, Jet Airways, IndiGo, GoAir, Vistara and the hunt begins… Dates are juggled. Timings are toggled… There’s a whole lot of what if, what then that happens. And to my amazement, I find that perfect combination! It is there! Sure, it does mean I have to book separately, but that’s absolutely alright. Google Flights does help me a bit here – I discover the SpiceJet flight which I eventually end up booking through Google Flights. So maybe I should not diss the aggregators already… But still. Atleast I have my flights at the timings and the rates I want, albeit with an extra day of leave.
I realise one thing – that the tickets I finally book were not listed on any of the travel aggregator sites. They just didn’t exist! Even if they did, they were at a much higher price – the SpiceJet ticket I decide to book costs me around Rs 3,400 one way while on MakeMyTrip, the cost of the same flight ticket is Rs 5,700! The final cost for my return airfare sets me back by Rs 6,900 – which is not bad considering I have woken up to this trip just 2 months in advance – a massive difference from my otherwise 6-month-in-advance well planned trips.
This elaborately frustrating exercise did teach me an invaluable lesson though – flight aggregators are generally a nightmare. Discounts or no discounts – it is always wiser to check the site directly before sealing the deal and making the payment. Even a Rs 100 difference can go a long way in India – imagine the entry fees to a park you really want to explore! So yes, damn you aggregators. I shall go the old way and albeit more tedious, lean back with the satisfaction of having bagged a good deal.