On our whiteboard at home, we have a list of travel plans/ideas that we wish to fulfill. One of them was an overseas road trip. We started our road trip practice with day trips to Little Big Club and Legoland in Malaysia. Both these trips were in preparation for our next big road trip to Australia.
We chose Australia for several reasons.
- It was a go-to destination for many first time road trip travelers from Singapore.
- We have a relative and some friends in Sydney.
- We’ve been to Sydney and Melbourne before so we can focus on the road trip itself rather than the cities.
- We want to visit theme parks in Brisbane/Gold Coast.
- We want to try traveling on an open jaw ticket.
- Road trip makes it easy to travel with children. We can stop whenever we want.
However, when it came to time to book the tickets, we realized that Australian dollars is rather strong against Singapore dollars. After some calculations and consultation with friends and relatives, we decided to shelf our Australia road trip plans.
Now then, where shall we go for our holiday?
Based on exchange rates alone, it would have been Japan. We considered Okinawa. However, since we will be traveling with both Baby1 and Baby2, and Baby2 being just 7-8 months old at the estimated time of travel, we decided to stay away from Japan for fears of the lingering radiation and uncertainty over its effects on young children.
We next contemplated on Korea or Taiwan. Much earlier during our planning, we’ve decided that we wanted to travel with Dear1’s parents so that we get some extra hands and help since both Babies are coming along. After discussing with them, we settled on Taiwan. Dear1’s parents had been to Taiwan for their honeymoon more than 30 years ago. Dear1’s mother and sister had recently been to Taipei. Dear1, Dear2 and Baby1 had been to Taipei in 2011 as well. So it was decided that we skip Taipei for this trip.
Instead, we focused on Taichung.
We decided that for this trip, we wanted a farm stay, a minsu stay, and finally spend the last day of the trip at the city centre where it would be convenient to buy gifts.
We went ahead with booking the air tickets and accommodations. We decided to travel with Singapore Airlines because it provided the best times for traveling (i.e. in the day time). We experienced traveling with Baby1 on an overnight flight for our Korea trip, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. So we wanted to travel during the day this time.
We nearly had a scare when booking the air tickets. Just one day before actual booking, it was at a discounted price of $600+ per adult. The next day, it went to $800+. Luckily, by changing our travel dates slightly, we managed to secure the $600+ tickets.
For accommodations, we decided to stay with CityInn Hotel again because of our good experience with them during our last trip to Taipei. For Cingjing minsu, we selected JS Villas based on a referral from a friend. And finally Flying Cow Ranch based on general internet reviews.
After booking the air tickets and deciding on our accommodations, the next consideration was that of a driver. Since we are traveling as a large group with 2 children, we decided that we should hire a driver for the entire trip. The driver we hired was a referral from a friend. There are many advantages to hiring a driver.
- It would be similar in spirit with out intention of a road trip, just that Dear1 is not behind the steering wheel.
- We do not have to worry about luggage, airport travels, and convenience of hotels.
- We do not have to worry about accessibility of places of interest.
- We can still stop whenever we want for babies to change diapers or visit the toilet.
- Babies can sleep while traveling.
- It is probably more cost efficient for the entire group given the comfort of traveling in a private vehicle.
Here’s a tip when planning a trip with a driver – you should confirm the driver first before confirming your itinerary and accommodations. Because the driver can give you advice on both. And the driver needs a room to stay too. Because we had booked the driver after booking our accommodations, he ended up not having a room at our Cingjing minsu and had to stay at another minsu nearby, slight inconvenience for him.
An interesting thing was that we used Facebook to book at JS Villa and our driver. They were both very responsive on Facebook. We contacted 2 other minsu and 2 other drivers via email and they were very slow to response. In the end, we choose the ones with faster response and hence better communication.
Finally, here’s the breakdown of our costs.
- Air tickets (adult and Baby1) per pax – $610.90
- Air tickets Baby2 – $162.80
- Flying Cow Ranch – 1 night 6 bedder – $241.58 (to be split by 2 families)
- JS Villa – 2 nights 3 bedder – $204.01
- CityInn – 2 nights 3 bedder – $255.18
- Driver – 6 days – $1615.10 (to be split by 2 families)
- Insurance – $84.15
After including our actual spendings and splitting of bills, our family spent a total of $3894.21 for our 6 days trip to Taiwan. If factoring in the $200 rebates from Manhattan card, it is $3694.21. I’m very satisfied with this price considering that it was a very comfortable 6D5N trip for 2 adults and 2 children, travelling with Singapore Airlines and with a hired driver for the entire trip.
Another post with the itinerary and a travel review to come next. :)