Smartours Thailand Tour February 1 – 15, 2010

We are getting ready to go to Thailand for our 20th anniversary and I hope to put up blog posts while we are there to keep family, friends and interested parties, informed.  I will also write a little travelogue of our trip and include any tips, tricks and useful information we run across.  And I will give our opinions of tours, hotels, etc that we use while we are there.

So here are the basics of our trip.  We are traveling with Smartours, an inexpensive tour operator that consistently gets good reviews on TripAdvisor and other places.  Smartours has quite good prices (especially when they run specials – signup for their emails). Our Thailand trip with Smartours starts at $1199 for 14-days and includes:

  • Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles via Korean Air
    (New York departure add $100)
  • Airline fuel surcharge
  • Intra-Thailand flight and ground transportation
  • Accommodations at Superior First Class hotels
  • Full buffet American breakfast daily (B)
  • Welcome dinner in Bangkok (D)
  • Sightseeing tours as per itinerary
    and all transfers
  • Professional English speaking
    Tour Director throughout

We did not go during the cheapest priced times (April on) so our cost was $1299. The best time to go to Thailand is Nov-Feb (“cool” season). And we flew out of JFK (NY) instead of LA so that was an addl $100. And there were $84 ea. in government taxes and fees.  So our price was a total of $2966 for the two of us. Which I think is a great price. Airfare is at best, $900 or more per person. Hotels for 14 days is at least $720 ($60/night for 12/nights). That is $2520 at a minimum. And adding in the extra meals (breakfast would probably be included in hotel price), convenience, transportation to/from airport and between cities, along with a guide and some tours included, it is a very reasonable price and one that would competitive, even if you went on your own.

The only few negatives I have heard regarding this tour are: the Bangkok hotel is not in a very convenient location, there are some days with long bus rides interspersed with long shopping stops, you get somewhat nickeled and dimed and the groups are large and unwieldy and slow to accomplish anything.

I know my way around Bangkok so I’m not too concerned about the hotel location. It is a long way from the waterfront area (Wat Po, Grand Palace, Khao San street (backpacker’s paradise and fun place). But it is close to the Sky Train and I want to go the the Chatachuk Saturday Flea Market that is easy to get to by riding the Sky Train (and something I didn’t get to do last time). As far as the long bus rides, at least we aren’t driving and the guide usually points things out and it is nice to see the scenery and to get to go to a lot of different places. And I am sure the bus will have soft seats and be air-conditioned (unlike the pickup trucks with benches of my last trip) and that is a downright pleasant way to travel. The shopping stops (gems, pottery, local crafts, whatever they have arranged to get a commission on) are usually an issue with any group tour and Sean and I just go wandering around or talk to the bus driver during the stops and try to enjoy wherever we are. Also, anything you do that is organized will nickel and dime you. It is just part of the total cost. Cruises are probably the worst for that. Large groups are frustrating, but if you don’t dillydally when a group something (like hotel check-in) is occurring and get towards the front, it helps.  So does patience.

We are flying from Fort Wayne to JFK ($311 pp) on Feb 1 (a day early in case of bad weather) and staying overnight at the Fairfield Inn New York JFK Airport ($151 total). The Fairfield Inn has a complimentary shuttle, serves a decent breakfast buffet included and has good reviews on TripAdvisor. I always check TripAdvisor to find everything associated with travel (except airfare). We leave about 12:30pm on Korean Air and arrive at Bangkok 11:10pm the next day. There is a 3 hour stopover in Seoul. Returning, we leave Bangkok at about 1am and arrive JFK at 10:40am (same day) with about a 3 hr. stop in Seoul. We also purchased World Wide Trip Protector travel insurance from Travel Insured (an independent travel insurance company, not through the tour group or airlines). It was $224 for the 2 of us. This includes emergency medical and emergency evacuation. Bangkok has extraordinary hospitals (I know, I was there last trip at Bangkok Nursing Hospital – highly recommended), but it is good to be able to get back to the U.S. with all associated costs taken care of.  And with older parents and long travel overseas and traveling in the winter with weather delays, etc, I think trip insurance is well worth the cost and I just consider it part of the total cost of the trip. Again, Travel Insured is a good trip insurance company. I use Squaremouth travel insurance broker to find the best insurance for us. They have a good reputation and have been around for a long time and are recommended by many places. I may or may not book through them though. In this case I went straight to the Travel Insured site to buy the insurance.

So our trip so far is $3963 total, or $1981 per person for 14 days.

I will post as often as I can and let you know about our trip.

By the way, to see all my posts from my February 2010 Smartours Amazing Thailand trip, you can select the category “Thailand” from the category drop-down on the right.

Until then, take care,

~Susan Mellott

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