We were headed to Bangkok Thailand from Seattle but Shawn decided that he wanted me to book the cheapest flights possible to save $400.
That led us to Xiamen Airlines and our overnight stay in China.
I’ve learned a LOT about booking travelnand housing sin we first started prepari for our nomad adventures in 2015. Now, when I search for flights I first to to Skyscanner.com and run a search from our current location to ANYWHERE. We only book one way flights and for this trip Sebastian was still under 2yrs old so we didn’t have to purchase him a seat.
I then look on Google flights to see pricing and what other flight options are available and if a specific day will save us extra money to fly out on which it generally dies.. Depending on the deals listed I go to one of a handful of sites to purchase the tickets.
I found all kinds of flights to SE Asia that cost anywhere from $800 to several thousand dollars all together. Shawn and I are all about going the cheapest route possible but as we have a toddler and also are now very experienced flyers and travelers, we know that there is more to flying than just the price you see.
You must think about legroom; how long each layover is and where it is and if you need a Visa; if baggage is free or costs extra; how much each bag can weight including your carry on bags, and how many personal items you can bring on with you. What time of day we land is also important because most times you can’t check in before 1 or 2pm so if you get in somewhere at 8am it’s most likely that you either have to wait around a few hours or hope that they will hold your bags while you go off and explore u til you can check in.
We also have to consider nap and sleep schedules. I now prefer to book all travel around times when I know Sebastian is most likely going to need a nap so that he’s not awake on the plane or rain or taxi ride jumping around.
I am in charge of finding and booking flights/travel and all our accomodations. I give Shawn the lowdown on my best picks and then we choose together what we want to finalize.
I wanted a flight to Thailand that had a shorter layover time and was on Delta which gave us two free 50lb bags each for international flights and a free carry-on with no weight restrictions but the cost was $1200 total. Included in that is Sebastian’s 10% of a ticket price for International travel when he sits in our laps.
Shawn wanted the $830 tickets with a 12hr layover in China so we could save some money. In the end, I relented and he won by saying we’d have more massages to get in Thailand. SOLD!
So, I booked the flights on CheapOair.Com and after I purchased travel insurance (normally I don’t buy it but with a flight like this and how long the layover was and weather in the area, just a little hurricane, I did) the total price for our flight, booking only 3 days in advance of travel for one way tickets from SeaTac airport to Bangkok Thailand was $999.65
Now here’s where the fun begins…
I had somehow missed, after booking the flights, that there was a rule with this airline that you could only have a single carry on bag (not a purse and a backpack or whatever… Just a single carry on) that weighed no more than 7 kilos which is 11lbs. Our carry on bags weighed at least 20lbs each. We only had one bag each to check and our computers are each 4lbs not including the cords so we started stressing out a bit. I mean, I had to bring all of Sebastian diapers, change of clothes, his Kindle can’t be packed in a suitcase and things he’d need for 36hrs of travel and that plus the laptop didn’t give me anything to bring – like snacks.
I had read a whole bunch of online posts about Xiamen’s baggage policy and found out that most said they are pretty strict about it and weighed your carry on bags before boarding.
After a night of no sleeping I finally decided that we were going to pack most of our stuff into two bags to check so we could just take the essentials onboard with us . We also were going to each bring a coat packed with pockets filled with other personal things we needed like our chargers, snacks and more. We were set.
We kept packing and repacking our bags to see how much we could get away with. We managed to each get our carry on bags stuffed and weighing no more than 49lbs for each of our big bags and then our 2nd bags were each only about 27 lbs. We also had the stroller and then a small personal bag each.
When you are traveling on a month long trip you can get away with one carry on and a personal item but when you are trying to pack your entire lives and plan for what you will want and need, it becomes much harder to pack – especially when you have a kid with you.
Monday morning came and we got all checked in. No one questioned our carry on bags or the fact that we both also had Fanny Packs on! I also told them that we needed a place to stay in Xiamen because of our layover so they sent copies of our passports via cellphone to the Chinese government to get our short term Visa approved for our layover…and we wouldn’t have to pay for the Visa or our Hotel. Very cool! #winning
At the gate they Checked our stroller and there was some miscommunication about whether we could get it in China or in Thailand. More on that later.
We strolled onto the plane with our light AF carry one wishing we’d packed more snacks and snuck more into them. All the Chinese passengers had all sorts of bags with them so we were like… Thanks Internet for all the poor advice.
We normally take a photo on our flights but we were pooped and didn’t do it. Sebastian was a total jerk. 12 hours of him just yelling or being unruly. His worst flight ever and my nerves were shot. So, this is the only photo I got.
We were supposed to land in Xiamen but the flight was taking us to Shenzhen Airport. WTF? Maybe Xiamen is lso called Shenzhen? Also, we were landing 5hrs earlier than expected so we thought cool, we’ll get in early enough to explore the area a bit before our flight to Thailand the next day. We was wrong!
As we left the plane there were flight attendants asking us about transfers. I asked if we needed one and gave them our names. All they, and we, could understand from one another is the word Xiamen and so we got some lanyards with transfer pass on hem they pointed for us to go…
Come to find out after landing that there was a man waiting for us in Customs. He knew who we were already (weird right?) by looking at us and told us we had to wait with a handful of other people and gave him our passports. At this point we realized that the coupon we were given earlier was for another flight.. a transfer to the Xiamen Airport.
Also, no stroller was to be found. We were hoping that it would make it to Thailand with us.
The guy in customs was helpful and once he got our paperwork in order (we had to sign some things in Chinese that we didn’t understand for our short term Visa) and we were off to finish our customs experience and find our next flight.
Finding food was a major challenge. Like… It was really hard. Even in the one place we knew, Starbucks, the drink ordering was difficult even with pointing, and the food was just weird. It was during our stay in the Shenzhen airport that we realized we would need a guide if we came back to China, at least for a few days to help us figure out some basic things. Every other we’ve visited has been pretty easy to navigate for all things. Even trying to find a train station in the Sri Lankan Jungle was easier than navigating the Shenzhen airport and trying to order some food we could eat that wasn’t crazy spicy or not appetizing.
Also, Sebastian was still being jerky. I was done and just wanted to take a nap. When we started to board we were stopped by security for a baggage check. They had one of Shawn’s bags at the gate and needed him to unlock it so they could inspect it. He apparently had packed a lighter. That’s a big no no. He got everything all zipped up and locked and Security was off with his bag. He then stressed all night that the bag didn’t make it on the plane.
We finally boarded our 55 minute flight to Xiamen and Sebastian was finally the sweet and likeable toddler traveled that I know and love. He was great on this flight and it put me in a much better mood.
We land in Xiamen and head through customs. NO STROLLER is to be found anywhere. We go to a special help desk for Transfers and ask about our free hotel and get our booking coupon. The Chinese are super efficient. I was so impressed with how easy everything was with the entire process. The only thing I needed now was that stroller.
I gave my baggage claim form for the stroller to a baggage claim agent and was ushered to a desk, and then 2 more desks and 3 more agents to help take me for a walk to retrieve our stroller. I almost cried when I saw it because all I wanted to do was strap Sebastian in and lock him down. He was all over me and I needed a break and he wouldn’t listen to Shawn.
We were finally able to get a taxi to bring us to the hotel listed on the paper but the name didn’t match the name of the hotel we were dropped off in front of. It was the right hotel but it was confusing. The Taxi cost about $4 USD.
Before we left SeaTac I exchanged $40 for Chinese currency and $500 in Thai for only $10 in fees and the current exchange rate. I didn’t want to try and find cash machines outside of customers after such long flights and then get taxis.
At this point it’s 10:30, we’re exhausted and ready to go to bed. Our hotel room was great and clean and Free so we were pretty happy.
The next morning we got the front lobby to order us a taxi to the airport and we were on our way to hunt for a normal McDonalds. Shibby was starving and we hadn’t eaten since our last meal on the plane.
We found sausage McMuffin a and hasbrowns which save our and Shibby’s stomaches. We were all in good moods and ready for the day ahead.
When we arrived to check in we were greeted with funny looks and told that we needed to go to a special desk. What now? Apparently we had to go claim our luggage because we didn’t claim it last night as we thought it was going to Thailand before we could get it. After fumbling around for about 30 minutes we found our luggage and were able to get back to check in at the transfer desk and recheck all our luggage.
On our way to our gate we ran into a sweet lady who really liked me and Sebastian. They became friends. Check out my Instagram post.
The rest of the process was quite smooth and our carry-ons weren’t even glanced at. We were on our way to Bangkok! Yay.
The next part of our trip Sebastian was also in a great mood and super easy thankfully.
We landed in Bangkok and since we’ve been to both airports multiple times, we knew right where to go for taxis and got ticket for one outside the airport. We didn’t want to take a shuttle taxi and take 2hrs to get to our hotel so we took our own metered taxi for the final price of 500 baht, $15 USD and 40 minutes later we were at our hotel. It was well worth a few dollars extra.
When you land at the airport you are innundated with people trying to get you to talk to them so they can sell you on taking their shuttle or booking a set price on transportation. Some people think you can save money booking in advance. Truly, there is no need to do that unless perhaps your place is a couple hours away from the airport.
We stayed at the Paragon One Residence and I booked it with Booking.Com. I’m a Genius member which means I use them so much I get 15% off most places above and beyond whatever deals they have as well as other perks so prices I get may be better than what you can find Initially when using them. I chose this place and location for access to nearby places we wanted to walk to. Also, we generally like budget hotels that are located along alleyways where locals live. We almost never stay in fancy schmancy places except for a handful of days each month as a treat if our budget allows. We stayed 6 nights starting August 14th. It’s still Monsoon season here so off season is also better pricing which we also like. Our total price was $149 which is almost $24 a night. Great deal for a king bed and private bathroom. with free breakfast.
2 Adults and one child on lap under 2yrs old flying one way:
$999.65. Flights from Seattle to Bangkok booked via CheapOair.Com
$9 total for taxi service from and back to Xiamen Airport.
$15 Metered Taxi from BKK airport to our hotel.
$149 for 6 nights at Paragon One Residences via Booking.com
TOTAL COST: $1,172.65 USD