We took a family trip to Kerala last month. Those of you who follow me on Instagram might have seen my posts about the sunsets, the backwaters and my vacation outfits. Some of you may have read my Vacation Planning post here as well. Kerala was a destination we had been wanting to do for a while now and we were primarily interested in the backwaters and beaches. When we looked at the standard tour packages offered for Kerala, we realised that they had only 1 or 2 days in the backwaters. Customizing the package was not economical. So, after speaking to a couple of tour operators, we started on the astronomical task of planning the itinerary and booking everything ourselves. It took us 4 weekends to plan and book everything. Yes, you heard it right 4 weekends!! Needless to say, we spent a lot of time researching. Most of the research was on Expedia and some on travel blogs. Expedia was the backbone of my research and I used it in various ways.
Using Expedia to plan a Vacation: Route Planning
Since this was a fully customised trip, we were free to take any route plan our stops and visit any place that we fancied. Kerala offers a variety of choices and covers varied interests. So the first thing I searched for was places to visit in Kerala. There were tons of articles on top 10 places to visit, top 10 things to do that covered the regular touristy places. There were a few others that talked about the not so popular activities and places that won’t have throngs of tourists. Using those articles and Google maps, we chalked out our route. We decided to do a road trip from Kochi to Kanyakumari and back. Now Kanyakumari is not Kerala, but we could not go that close and miss out on the Southern most trip to India! Once our stops were decided, we wanted to book the Hotels next!
Using Expedia to plan a Vacation: Hotels
While looking at popular travel sites, we were able to find several hotels in the budget range we wanted. Now the question was which one to book. Memories of such a gamble taken in 2009 in Jaipur came flooding back to me. The so-called three star hotel was just about 1 star! Again, Expedia came to our reference. Hubby would look at hotels that were available on our dates and let me know the dates. I would read the reviews, look at pictures on Expedia and shortlist. Then we would together look at the shortlisted 2 or 3 and book. I cannot tell you how many glossy looking hotels I bumped off the list due to bad reviews. Now, a thing about reviews is that they need to be taken with a pinch of salt. It is possible for two different guests to have two very different experiences at the same property. One might love it and another might hate it! But as long as multiple reviews reflect the same sentiment, you can be fairly certain of a similar experience. What would invariably tilt in favour of the hotels we booked were pictures of the room and in certain cases, attitudes of the staff. I am never booking another hotel without checking reviews on Expedia. I was also pleasantly surprised to see reviews written in greek! Apparently, the site supports multiple languages 🙂
Using Expedia to plan a Vacation: Sight Seeing
So the route was planned. The hotels were booked. Hubby’s job was done. Then began my task of planning the sight seeing. I had to be vary of the fact that we were doing a road trip and would move everyday. Plus, we had a toddler and an elder with us. So, I decided to stick to 2 or 3 things to do at each location. I checked Expedia for things to be done at each location and was able to shortlist what we would like. I was toying with the idea of visiting Poovar. It was highly recommended but I was not certain. When we were there, we decided to visit and I must tell you that it was one of the highlights of the trip! The golden sand beach surrounded by turquoise water is just AMAZING! Poovar does not figure on most of Kerala packages and I found it to be one of the best places. I would have missed on this little piece of heaven if it were not for expedia.
Leaving you guys with a picture of the glorious Golden Sand Beach at Poovar.
Using Expedia to plan a Vacation: Things to Note
Expedia also has a lot of forums where you can discuss anything from properties, to shopping options to transport to sight seeing. The great thing is that they are all administered so there is minimal solicitation. You read and discuss actual experiences. I learnt about booking a taxi and how to locate a taxi provider on expedia. There were also recommendations on what to eat and where to eat on such forums. It was a goldmine of information! I would highly recommend using expedia to know all you can about the places you want to visit. Even if you have booked a packaged tour, the knowledge will help you get more from the trip.
Now if you were using Expedia to plan your trip as extensively, the site allows you to got directly to other sites for hotel booking. Cool eh? You can then use coupon codes to get additional discounts on your booking. 27 Coupons is a site that has an exclusive Expedia store. The site has a list of coupons as well as the success rate experienced by other users.
A feature I really liked in 27 coupons is that it allows you to save coupons and then view all the ones later when you want to make your booking. This shortlisting thing really helps when there are multiple coupons that may be available for your use. Sites like Expedia often run site wide promotions. These are auto applied when your purchase meets the criteria. However, keeping track on all such promotions on the sites can be a challenge. They may have microsites dedicated to campaigns or banner ads or pop ups on pages. How often do these become a blind spot? And you miss out on the knowledge that minor tweaks to your purchase can make you eligible for a great deal. Like if you book a hotel room above 5k a night, you get a 10% discount. If you had shorlisted a 4.5k per night room, then you’d miss out on the deal. However, if you used it then paying the same amount you’d enjoy a better property! This is where coupons 27 helps in a big way!!! Since all the deals are in a single place, you can easily decide what to go for!
Besides, Expedia is not the only store 27 Coupons supports. You can find tonnes of other lifestyle products there. Since we are all such big believers in retail therapy, why not save some money while indulging in it?
ps- This is a sponsored post by 27 coupons. My opinions and experiences on Expedia and 27 Coupons are both honest and true.