Globetrotting Online

Published Date
01 - Oct - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Oct - 2005
 
Globetrotting  Online
A holiday is a time to relax, but often, you get so hassled ensuring everything goes smoothly that you forget to relax! Is there any way to avoid making ten trips to ten agents trying to get the best deal? Is there an easier way to plan your own trip?

The answer is yes. Online.

Over the last few years, security for online payments has  improved considerably. With almost all online payments going through SSL (Secure Sockets Layers) servers, there's little need to worry. But is there a one-stop solution to planning a trip online? Read on…

The Information Desk
Before you can plan your trip, it's important to know where exactly you want to go. All right, you've decided it's going to be Australia, but you cannot see the whole of Australia in ten days. You can't even see the whole of Mumbai in that much time! So educate yourself. How?

Travel agency Web sites are often a good resource to know more about your destination. As a matter of fact, these can be a better source of information than other resources, Web or print. For one, these are more focused on your destination, and can provide a good indicator of what to expect. This can be especially helpful as a starting point if you are taking a package tour, and can also be a point of comparison.

In addition to knowing more about the destination, there are a couple of links (found on most travel sites) you must click on: 'Details' and 'Itinerary'.

'Details' usually spells out all that's 'Included' and all that's not in your package (in the case of a package tour). 'Itinerary' tells you exactly how much time you would have to yourself and how many places you are going to visit and when.

In the case of airline ticket booking, the link called 'Details' or 'Terms and Conditions' is the most important. Airlines allow you to book a one-way, round trip or a multi-city trip online. The cancellation rules and regulations as well as some booking guidelines are very important.

For instance, Jet Airways does not allow online booking of tickets for infants. Also, when booking domestic travel tickets on Jet Airways, foreign nationals have to pay in US dollars.

You have to read the fine-print points  before proceeding with a final booking.

The Electronic Ticket

Planning and booking your flight online is a good idea. You can also print your ticket at home, and if you've paid for it, it will also let you into the airport!

  • Electronic Ticket is Jet Airways' ticketless travel service. An electronic image of your ticket is stored in Jet Airways' reservation system.
The itinerary receipt is your confirmation of travel.
  • On a successful purchase the system will generate an Electronic Ticket and a printable itinerary receipt will be displayed.
  • You will need to print this itinerary receipt and use it for your access to the airport and check-in.
  • To enter the airport and for check-in, you must present the itinerary receipt along with a valid photo identification (Official Government issued photo identification/driving license/election photo identification/passport (for international passengers only)/photo credit card).
  • For valid reason(s) if your ticket does not get generated online, your itinerary receipt will show an alert as "Your Ticket was not issued". Hence, this receipt cannot be used for airport entry or check-in.
The Fine Print
  • Once purchased, changes or cancellation to this booking cannot be made online.
To do this, you need to contact a Jet Airways Reservation office. (Reproduced from www.jetairways.com)

Booking a ticket online starts at the homepage itself. Just choose your origin and destination and start the process

Once you have chosen all the legs of your journey, you can choose from the various flights available to confirm

Once your itinerary is fixed, fill in your personal details so the ticket can be generated

A multi-city tour, such as where you fly from Mumbai to Ahmedabad to Delhi and back to Mumbai, can also be booked online

There are a couple of bugs here, too, like when the drop down menu shows places that cannot be included in a multi-city domestic tour-like Singapore!


Read The Fine Print

And that's why you simply must read the fine print. Mind you, this still does not include airport taxes (if any) at Singapore, cost of visa, and any other 'overheads'. Simply put, this trip could cost anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000 (including some shopping and other necessary expenses). $49 was only a marketing price.

Anyway, these sites also offer online flight booking, adventure holiday package booking, honeymoon packages, wildlife holidays and even car bookings.

Travel portals apart, leading travel agencies are also offering online booking options today. Raj Travels (http://rajtravels.com) is one of the few travel agencies that allows you to book online using ICICI Bank's payment gateway.

Some of the other bigger agencies such as Cox and Kings, SOTC and Kesari Tours, to name a few, have a lot of information on their sites, but do not offer the option of booking your trip online.

SOTC, for example, allows you to download a PDF of their booking form and print it out yourself. Cox and Kings allows you to 'Plan Your Trip', but this is really not as interactive or 'online' as one would have liked-all you can do is enter some basic info and wait for them to write back to you with details. The same is the case with Kesari Tours, who let you 'Book Now'-but at the fag end of the process it's revealed that a "sales person would get in touch with you shortly". Bummer!

Planning your own trip is also possible via an airline portal such as Jet Airways' or that of Sahara Airlines or even Indian Airlines. Jet also offers 'Jet Getaways', a travel package in addition to their ticket booking option. Similarly, Sahara Airlines has its own travel packages going to domestic locations like Goa and Kerala and some international destinations like Singapore. Of course, the air travel has to happen with them!

If, however, you want to plan your own trip, you can fix your flight plan online, book and even print your tickets at home. You use these tickets to enter the airport and you're issued boarding passes against them.

Airlines today are highly competitive, and this augurs well for the traveller. Special offers, frequent flyer miles and even tickets up for bidding means there's always a better price available. Once again, be sure to read the fine print very carefully. Spice Jet, one of the new entrants in the domestic airspace, is also letting you to choose your seats at the time of booking.

Railway booking online, too, has been a reality for some time now. The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (http:// irctc.co.in) requires a sign-up and then you're away. Some special schemes even allow your payments to be broken into EMIs.

The IRCTC has gone a step further and is also allowing SMS booking. You need to provide them with the cell number at the time of sign-up, and as of right now, payment is possible only through ICICI Bank.

But here's the baffling part: reservation is possible only between 4 AM and 11.30 PM. As is evident in the screenshot above, we missed it… by two minutes!

Despite all the shortcomings and quirks though, online travel planning is a reality. You no longer need to suffer long queues before you can relax!

I- and E-Ticketing: IRCTC
 I-Tickets can be delivered to the customer at his desired address through courier. This delivery of
I-Tickets through courier is limited to postal addresses covered by the PIN codes listed under the 'Places of Delivery' link.
For E-Tickets (e-reservations), the user can take a printout of the Reservation Slip and conduct the journey without requiring the regular ticket to be delivered.




Plan Your Trip

A package tour is something where your itinerary is planned to the 't' by the travel agency, and all you need to do is show up. And of course, pay up!

Doing this online is also a realistic option today. Whether it's a reputed tour organiser or a dedicated online portal, you can go online and choose a package that fits your budget, time schedule and destination.
Portals such as Traveljini (http://traveljini.com) let you plan a trip or choose from one of their many packages. Often, they also have a variety of great promotional offers, and if they are running when you are planning, there couldn't be anything better.

In fact, Traveljini had a $49-99 deal that offered some packages (3 Days/2 Nights and more) for either $49 (Rs 2,300) or $99 (Rs 4,650). Sound great? Well, it almost is!

One catch in planning a trip this way is there's a lot of fine print involved that simply must be read. In the case of the trips mentioned above, the prices were per head per day, and the package did not include airfare! So a trip to Singapore for 3 Days and 2 Nights for two people would cost about$1,025 (Rs 48,178). Here's how we arrived at this figure:

Cost of stay as specified by Traveljini: $49 per head per day
Duration of stay: 3 Days 2 Nights
Payable days: 3
[A] Total cost of stay: $49 x 3 x 2 = $294 (Rs 13,818)
Remember, this does not include the airline costs. We checked up on http://jetairways.com for their Mumbai-Singapore flight. We asked for two economy seats at the 'Lowest Available' fares, and each seat cost us Rs 17,180.
[B] Cost of travel (Jet Airways):
Rs 17,180 x 2 = Rs 34,360
Grand Total (A B):
Rs 48,178 ($1,025 approx)

Airline Type of Airline Online Booking Web site 
Air India Domestic and International Yes www.airindia.com 
Indian Airlines Domestic and International Yes www.indian-airlines.nic.in 
Air Sahara Domestic and International Yes www.airsahara.net 
Jet Airways Domestic and International Yes www.jetairways.com 
Spice Jet Domestic Yes www.spicejet.com 
Air Charters India Domestic (Charter flights) No www.airchartersindia.net 
Air India Express Domestic and International Yes www.airindiaexpress.in 
Deccan Air Domestic Yes www.airdeccan.net 
Kingfisher Airlines Domestic Yes www.flykingfisher.com 
Travel Agency Offers Online Booking Web site 
Cox and Kings Domestic and outbound tours;
special packages
No; only info collected www.coxandkings.com 
SOTC Outbound tours No; only info collected www.sotc.co.in 
Kesari Tours Domestic and outbound tours;
special packages
No; only info collected www.kesari.in 
Raj Travels Domestic and outbound tours;
special packages
Yes www.rajtravels.com 
MakeMyTrip.com All types of tours including
adventure holidays
Yes www.makemytrip.com 
TravelJini.com All types of tours including
adventure holidays
No; only info collected www.traveljini.com 
The Online Travel Planners
Planning an entire holiday using one of the two major portals available-TravelJini.com and MakeMyTrip.com-can sure make life easier.

TravelJini.com, for example, also houses surrogate travel agents White Mischief and Black Mischief who offer adventure, romance, 'friends' and 'high spirits' holidays! These trips are planned to the last detail and offer destinations including Bangalore-Mysore-Ooty-Coimbatore and Goa and even a Himalayan Jeep Safari. The Safari, for example, includes an open jeep journey throughout with stops in Manali and Khajjar, touted as "India's Switzerland"!

Other seasonal holidays even included a 'Ganeshotsav' package near Panvel in Maharashtra and a contest where you could win a holiday in Goa. International holidays here include destinations in Austria in particular and the rest of Europe in general.

To be honest, the list of destinations offered here is so extensive that we cannot possibly include it. Suffice to say, though, that any place you are planning from Ladakh to Kerala to visit is on their list.



But its not only domestic holidays that one can book using these portals. Even international destinations are available and TravelJini.com has a fairly exhaustive list of these as well. MakeMyTrip.com it seems is focussing more on the foreign trips with the homepage advertising mostly these while the Indian holidays are spread across the page with a special link on the top.

But a click on the 'Holidays' link on the homepage will lead you to a very nice search tool that will update destination options based on initial choices of regions. So if you choose 'North India', a list of destinations from this area will be available in the next list. Clicking on the required options will bring up all packages available in that area for your choice of dates.

One of the main advantages of searching and booking using such a portal is that when choosing your destinations itself, you are offered all necessary information on the destination that you can read up on before deciding. Notably, MakeMyTrip.com is a global portal and also has the option of paying in US dollars.

In the case of TravelJini.com, the domestic travel options are mind-boggling and you could well find yourself confused about where you would want to go! It's almost an embarrassment of riches.

For actually booking your holiday with either portal, a free registration is required. This information is used for your contact details and so on so the next time you book a journey with them, you don't have to fill in these details again.

A noteworthy addition here is the 'Create an alert' one that lets you create an alert for airfares between two chosen destinations. This way, you are kept aware of the lowest fares for that journey from time to time. It's also worth keeping an eye on this site if you fly frequently for they claim to have the lowest airfare available.

Payment options are not too large and paying on MakeMyTrip.com is through major credit cards. TravelJini.com, though, will tell you your fare and other expense details and "Get back to you shortly"!

Au Revoir
Almost none of the travel agents (barring two) offers online payment options, all the airlines are offering this option making it that much easier to plan a journey but not a holiday.

One thing that one does miss out on here is the option of planning a customised trip. You are better off doing that by yourself especially if you want a trekking or hiking trip.

Also, unlike in the US, in India, renting a car for an adventure journey of your own is not all that easy. You will probably be better off landing up at your destination and then booking a vehicle for local transport.

Gadgets To Carry 
Cell Phones

HP iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger
For those who wander around the globe, the new iPAQ hw6515 Mobile Messenger is the perfect travelling companion. One of the latest PDA phones launched by HP, the hw6515 Mobile Messenger lives true to its name and keeps you connected wherever you are.
Featuring a quad-band GSM phone (850/900/1800/ 1900 MHz), the device also supports GPRS/EDGE technologies that provide high-speed connectivity. Boasting of an internal GPS receiver, the iPAQ hw6515 (coupled with GPS software and digital city maps) is capable of pinpointing your exact location and provide you with turn-by-turn driving instructions to your destination.
What's more, you also get a 1.3  megapixel HP Photosmart Camera built into the device, so you can capture both still images and videos and share them instantly using MMS or e-mail.
Price: Rs 29,000 (plus taxes)

Digital Cameras

Sony DSC P200
There's a reason we think that the Sony DSC P200 would be a good travel companion. For one, it has a massive 7.1-megapixel CCD, and it is feature rich. You can easily drop it into your pocket and move on whenever required
.
Moreover, it has all the features a serious photographer would want. When travelling, you'd prefer a camera that starts up almost instantly and is ready to shoot before you lose the moment. This is the one.
Price: Rs 20,990

Nikon Coolpix 5900
If small yet powerful cameras are your thing, this is a great piece to have. With a 5.1-megapixel CCD, a variety of flash modes and great features, this camera will not disappoint.
The Coolpix 5900 also boasts of 3X optical zoom and some digital zoom. In terms of its performance, the 5900
is a reliable camera with good colour reproduction and optical clarity.
Price: Rs 21,000

Camcorders

Samsung DuoCam

With a MiniDV camcorder for high quality recording and 5.2 mp digicam crisp images, the DuoCam lets you choose how you want to capture. It has two lenses and CCD image sensors ensuring high clarity and quality for all photos and video clips.
Price: Rs 25,000

Sony DCR HC42E
This compact little camcorder is equipped with a 1/5.5" megapixel CCD and a CZ Vario-Tessar lens and will probably deliver the best image quality you could ask for. The DCR HC42E also has a 12X optical zoom lens and can zoom up to 480X in digital zoom more.
Ease of use is high thanks to the touch panel for all operations and the newest added technology-Easy Handycam. What's that? Using this function, all settings are automated, making it possible to just point and shoot!
Storage options include a Memory Stick DUO Slot, especially useful for the digital still camera. Priced very well, this is a camera that can be a good companion on your travels.
Price: Rs 34,995


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