I have always been fond of travel whether it is for business or for pleasure. A visit to new places within India and outside it is always an exciting event for me. Fortunately this interest is shared by my wife and our children too as they have been to several places over the years.
When I was younger and traveling alone, it hardly mattered as to how I did so. Normally train and specifically the AC 2 Tier coaches would be the medium. As the family grew and time became a premium courtesy my demanding corporate job, I had to look into air travel within India. If one went by air it was possible to take a break even with a 3-4 day time window. Part of it was of course lifestyle creep too, as it was way easier to get my wife to go on such short trips if we were going by air. With the options being more today and there being the probability of tickets being reasonably priced, this makes sense in many ways.
I have a very simple way to decide as to whether we should go by train or air. In case the journey can be done by an overnight train, typically in less than 10 -12 hours, I prefer to take the train. The romance of train journeys has stayed with me since childhood but even though the spirit is willing, the flesh is definitely weak as far as longer journeys are concerned. So, if I am going on a personal vacation I am quite happy to take the train between Hyderabad and Chennai or Bangalore or Pune. Of course, if I were going on business I would go by air. On the other hand travel to Kolkata or Delhi or Mumbai from my city Hyderabad would always be done by air.
As many frequent travelers will know, the price of air tickets vary greatly depending on the time you buy them. In general, the earlier you buy the better are the chances of getting a good price. However, if you are planning to go around the school holidays or some festival or a long weekend, the prices will normally be always high. The second element is waiting for an airline sale etc and taking advantage of the cashback and discounts that some credit and debit cards offer. If you plan early and take these into account by using the mobile apps from different travel sites, you can get a rather good deal.
Let me give some examples of the air ticket purchases I have done this year, so that the readers can get the point easily:-
- We are leaving for Kumarokom tomorrow for a week’s vacation. I wanted to book an air ticket as trains were few and the journey time exceeded my benchmark.
- I looked at a few sites and decided on Make My Trip site. It had reasonable prices and good options though it charges convenience fees of 175 per ticket.
- However with the MMT site Citibank was running a cashback offer of 1200 Rs which I utilized along with some MMT points.
- The overall price after the cashback came to about 8000 Rs, which was not much higher than the AC 2 tier fare.
- I also booked air ticket for my son as he wanted to come in mid semester for a couple of days. While there is a train and regular Volvo buses between Goa and Hyderabad, those were not convenient for a 2 day trip.
- As the overall price was coming to less than 5000 Rs the ICICI or CITI cashback was not working for this ticket.
- I booked with Ease My Trip as that is a site which does not charge convenience fees for booking tickets.
- A round trip ticket came to about 4000 Rs, which is only about 20 % more than an AC 2 Tier round trip ticket.
- The third trip is to Kolkata in October. We have not been there for a long time during Durga Pujas and wanted to do so this year.
- In this case the tickets were priced at levels where it made sense to break up the purchases in order to maximize the cashback.
- For the onward journey I used ICICI debit card in the MMT application. Despite the convenience fee the 1500 cashback was worth it.
- For the return journey, I used the same MMT application with my CITI credit card. The cashback available was 1200 Rs.
- The overall price of the trip came to about 12000 which is the least I have paid in years.
Note that these were normally booked without an ongoing sale etc. My experience in that has not been too encouraging and these eventual prices were pretty good. If you are of the opinion that air prices are much higher than train prices think again. With air prices in a competitive situation and train fares increasing greatly in the last 2-3 years, it makes much more sense to look at air travel than ever before.
Of course, traveling by air at short notice is a terrible idea as the prices are astronomical. This is not something which you should ever look to do.