Korea Travel Series Part 2: Pre-Trip Planning – Flights & Accommodations

Continuation of Mummy Audrey’s trip to Seoul, Korea with 3 kids and Ahjussi from 1st to 15th Sep 2016.

Links to the entire series HERE.

Flights

This trip was planned on impulse, thus we didn’t have much time to shop around for better flight deals.

As we are comfortable with 3 airlines for our Korea trips, we simply checked out these 3 airlines and selected the cheapest option based on our travel dates.

Korean Air – Cheapest of all when we checked. Tickets were $827.30/adult, $715.30/child & $47.60/infant. This meant a total of $3132.80 for our family of 5.

Asiana – It was around $3400 for the whole family.

Singapore Airlines – This was the most expensive one during our travel dates. $4200! As much as we love SQ, we can’t justify paying $1k more for the flights, thus we made do with Korean Air.

Add on: Asiana & SQ are part of Star Alliance in which you can accumulate miles from both airlines using 1 account. So for those who are accumulating miles for future redemption of tickets or upgrades, you may take this into consideration. We have a membership with Korean Air and SQ.

Comparing the 3 airlines… We’ve taken them all with and without kids.
Korean Air – For an economy flight, baggage check in is LIMITED TO ONE PIECE PER PASSENGER. This means your shopping will be limited. Each passenger (adult & child) is entitled to 23kg of checked in baggage, the infant is entitled to 10kg. This means a total of 102kg for us.
On our first flight with Korean Air last year, the booking agent made a mistake and informed me via email that infants were entitled to 23kg for checked in baggage. As such, the agent made arrangements with Korean Air to allow us 23kg of checked in baggage for Meimei when I highlighted the mistake to them at the airport. Thankfully it was all in B&W (via email)!
Asiana – Asiana has the same 1 piece per passenger check-in allowance. However, based on our experience during winter, they were more lenient on overweight baggage! Our group at that time consists of 9 pax. Which means 9 x 23kg = 207kg checked in baggage. However, as it was winter and we brought the kids, this kiasu mother packed a lot of winter wear for them. When we flew up, our total was around 200kg! I don’t think our group of 9 can only shop 7kg right? So we were prepared to top up when we return but the ground staff told us that they will waive off the excess baggage fees since it was winter and we had kids with us! Our total checked in baggage weight when we came back was around 230kg. 20++kg overweight and they waived it all!
Singapore Airlines – SQ doesn’t have limited quantity of checked in baggage per passenger and baggage allowance is 30kg per passenger. This is what we love about SQ! If we travel SQ, I usually bring less luggage and just pack my shopping to boxes and check them in.

Add on: Why is the number of checked-in baggage per person important? Based on our experience, our luggage usually can pack 13 to 16kg each. We are not able to maximise the 23kg baggage allowance with the baggage limit of 1 item per passenger. This means we can’t buy bulky items as they can’t fit in. And that will mean no toys for the kids. 😦 This trip we really tried not to buy toys for the kids by avoiding the toy street at Dongdaemun. We ended up shipping stuff back by courier.

Comparing service, comfort, food, in-flight entertainment for all 3 of these airlines, they are comparable. Korean Air is a tad easier to book specific meals for the infant and children if you book directly on their website. My boys loved their food. The infant didn’t like her infant bottled food (Heinz), but she wanted her brothers’ kiddy meals.
SQ had newer movies and shows for in-flight entertainment, but for people like us who seldom get to watch any movie other than cartoons for kiddo movies, everything on Korean Air was great too. Anyway, I usually book night flights to maximum our time in Korea, thus the need to use the in-flight entertainment was really minimal.

How to get the cheapest possible fares? 
If your travel dates are not fixed, while checking for flights, ensure that you select this option “I want flexible dates”. They will show a range of prices around your intended travel period.

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Remember to select “I want flexible dates”!

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This is just an example, but you are able to see that there is a difference in pricing. You can plan your trip around this to save on flight.

Accommodations

You will need to think about which area you will want to stay in.
Myeongdong is the popular area for shopping (cosmetics) and street food. Namdaemun Market (for children’s clothing & more food) is nearby this area. Dongdaemun (loads of shopping) is 2-3 stations away or 5-10min taxi ride away. Other popular tourist attractions near this area are the palaces (5-10 min taxi ride), Cheonggyecheon Stream ( a lovely place for after dinner walk) and Namsam Tower (Seoul N Tower).

For us, we love the convenience of Myeongdong and have been staying here every trip. One of our of trips last year, we tried out Gangnam area due to our work location (easier to get to the office). And we also discovered a treasure trove there! Thus, this trip, we split our stay into a few different places to fully enjoy and explore. Our initial plan was: Stay at Everland Resort and enjoy 2 full days there, then hop over to Myeongdong for a week before going over to Gangnam for the rest of the trip. However, we were too late in calling in to book Everland Resort and the rooms with private showers were fully booked!

Add on: Only phone booking available. They do not have internet booking system.

Which to book at Everland Resort (also known as Homebridge)?
Based on my phone call with them in August 2016 (they can speak English), all the rooms at Hillside Hostel are the ones with private toilets in your room. Unless you don’t mind having to use common toilets during your stay, then you can consider trying out their other options (hostel & cabins). Do check the map carefully on their website, cabins shown clearly with external common toilets on the map. And description stated clearly the main building that toilets are common shared toilets.

Now, because we could not get the Everland Resort accommodation as initially planned, we decided to head back to Myeongdong. At this point, I’ve actually booked the apartments for the rest of the trip, thus the 1st 2 nights will have to be a different apartment or hotel.

My first check was with our #1 fave hotel Hotel Prince Seoul, located in Myeongdong. It is just 20 steps away from Exit 2 of Myeongdong Station! Surrounding the hotel, there are loads of food options. Just across the road (the traffic crossing is just in front of the hotel), it is Myeongdong shopping street! There’s a good money changer just across the road too. And most importantly, the airport bus stop is just across the road too. Taking the airport bus can save you quite a lot if you are travelling in a big group or have a lot of luggage. During all our stays there, the hotel staff has been super helpful. They helped us to carry all our luggage across the road to the airport bus stop!
We usually book on HOTELS.COM as we can accumulate free stays and we did redeem the free nights several times.
However, we skipped this as they required us to book 2 rooms to accommodate us plus 3 kids.

We have been trying out apartments as cheaper options in our previous trips just to recce and see if it is possible to use apartments when we bring the kids up. We’ve been booking our apartments with AirBnB. We’ve heard both positive and negative feedback, thus when we planned to book an apartment through AirBnB, we did have back up plans in case the host cancelled on us. Our back up included a list of nearby hotels with reasonable prices and their phone numbers so we could ring them to check on available rooms if we really needed to.

Anyway, if you are not an AirBnB member yet, please sign up through this link! You can get S$40 off your first trip (more than S$100) and I get to accumulate some credits towards our next trip. 🙂 Just in case you didn’t see the earlier link to sign up to get your discount, here it is again: www.airbnb.com.sg/c/audreyw1859

This is the first room we have ever booked on AirBnB… Turned out to be quite decent and the location description provided was accurate!

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Total for 7 nights = S$414 including cleaning fees & admin charges.

Our S$55/night room on a previous trip with just Meimei & Ahjussi in 2015. Search for “MYEONG DONG BEST LOCATION FOR 2P@51“. It is at Hoehyeon Station (across the road from Namdaemun and 5 min walk from Myeongdong Street Shopping). I shared the bed with Meimei while Ahjussi preferred the futon on the floor. There was washing machine (we used it daily), stove, fridge and a private toilet with hot water shower. This room may not be on level 1 but the building has elevator/lift. So no climbing!

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This is the original photo posted on AirBnB of the room above. From our experience, the photos have been true reflections of the rooms, plus minus a bit of wear & tear or damage caused by other guests.

And of course, with 3 kids on this trip, this room was definitely too small for us. Thus we went in search for another room.

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This is the original photo posted by the host on AirBnB. We forgot to take photos of the room this trip as we were more focused on getting the kids settled down. This is the room we stayed for the 1st 2 nights (replace Everland Resort).

How to find this room on AirBnB? Search “★明洞 2 min. MyungDong Station&Namsan“. It is S$113 per night. Total for 2 nights = S$305 including cleaning fees & admin charges.
Do note that this room is located on level 3. There are no lifts in the building. The host was really nice to meet us at the airport bus stop and helped us with the luggage. Enroute from airport bus stop (same airport bus stop as Hotel Prince Seoul), there’s quite a bit of slope and narrow roads to handle. If you intend to stay here, please minimise bringing a lot of barang else ‘carry die you’. During check out he was busy and we assured him that we could handle the luggage on our own (we are already used to it).
Another nice thing about this apartment is that food is literally JUST BELOW. The restaurant below this is owned and managed by a Singaporean. The food is awesome! We’ve had both lunch (set menus) and dinner (grilled meat) there and we love it. Zero worries about not being able to speak Korean here. Bring out all the Singlish you got can liao! Check out ON THE GRILL’s Facebook Page!

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Superb dinner at On The Grill! The boys slurped up all the beef! Most importantly, we requested for dried seaweed for the boys and they loved it mixed into their rice. They can survive all meals with plain rice and dried seaweed!

How to get to ON THE GRILL

Myeongdong Station Exit 2, you will see Hotel Prince Seoul. U-turn.
Once you reach a small road, turn left (there is a Chinese restaurant on your left).
Walk up that street towards Pacific Hotel.
There is a fork at Pacific Hotel, turn left. Keep walking for another 3 min, you will see Isaac Toast on your right, and lookout on your left. On the Grill will be there. 🙂

After 2 nights in this apartment, we moved on to another apartment in Myeongdong. This apartment was a surprise to me as it was pretty hidden and we have not noticed it on our earlier trips although it is just 20 steps away from Hotel Prince Seoul!

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S$113/night. This is one of the bedrooms, there were 2 bedrooms in this apartment. We ended up all sleeping in this room and the other room became the ‘laundry room’. LOL! This apartment has washing machine within our room and dryers in the common area (downstairs). It is located on the 2nd floor within the property. The photo is from HomeAway, uploaded by the host. Photos were the true reflection of the place except that he added SONG JOONGKI’s posters on the walls! ❤ ❤ ❤ I wasn’t the only one in love with him, Meimei kept going over to the posters to smile at him too!

Total for 7 nights = S$1109 including cleaning fees & admin charges.

For this apartment, I didn’t get it from AirBnB. Apparently, the host did list it on AirBnB but it didn’t turn up when I searched for rooms which could accommodate 5 people. So I tried out another website called HomeAway. It was pretty nerve wrecking for us considering we had 7 nights at this apartment. If the website was not reliable, we would really be in trouble! I managed to contact the host once he confirmed my booking and he was extremely responsive and assuring, which helped me to put my fears away.
The location was super as if you preferred not to climb up the steep slope beside Hotel Prince Seoul to get to the apartment, you can use Exit 1 of Myeongdong Station (has elevator/lift on that exit) and walk in (no slopes) in about 30 steps.
We felt really safe at this apartment as the host had CCTV monitoring outside and best of all, he lives in one of the rooms on level 1!

We then moved on to Gangnam after this. As our luggage was quite a crazy amount after all the shopping we did while in Myeongdong, we split into 2 taxis to get over to Gangnam.

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Our apartment in Gangnam, photo from AirBnB. There was only 1 bed but there was futon provided with extra bedsheets, pillows, and blankets. No issues as I preferred to sleep on the floor (with futon) with Meimei so that she won’t fall off the bed. See the small space between the bed and the wardrobe? We slept there and it was much safer (no falling off the bed or being stepped on by her brothers when they get off the bed to pee at night).

Find it on AirBnB “★OPEN EVENT★Entire Flat in Gangnam”. Total for 5 nights = S$594 including cleaning fees & admin charges.

This apartment was one of our favourites. Big, and spacious! Meimei had loads of space to run around! And considering that it is in Gangnam (similar to our Bukit Timah), pricing was really good at S$80 per night. Just below there’s a cafe and surrounding was food, food, and food! Most important for us, it was near the CALT CITY AIRPORT!

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The different airlines that can check in at this City Airport in Gangnam.

Why City Airport?
Because if we take any of our 3 fave airlines, we can check in early here, then continue to explore Seoul before we head to Incheon Airport in time to catch our flight! No worries about early check out timings (usually 10am) for the apartment as we can simply drop off our check in at the City Airport (walking distance), then keep our hand carry in the lockers available there. We can also get our passports chopped there! And once we are done and it is time, we can head back here to pick up our hand carry, then take the airport bus from here to Incheon Airport direct (45min ride without traffic). And, it is just next to the largest shopping mall in Seoul, Coex Mall!

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Locking our hand carry stuff and stroller (since we don’t need it for the day) into their locker which is digitally operated. Cost us 8,000 won for 8h storage.

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Airport Bus from City Airport to Incheon Airport is 16,000 won per adult and 10,000 won per child. Baby Oppa and Meimei didn’t have to purchase tickets. Child tickets are fro 7 to 12yo only. You can purchase the tickets from automated machines. They will show the bus schedules and you can select the timing.

Suggest for you to call up the CALT City Airport to confirm that your flight (give them flight number & date) can use this option of checking in there before you plan your trip this way. The staff can speak English well.
There’s also a City Check In at Seoul Station (near Myeongdong). We have not tried that out but we went to take a look and decided it is not for the faint-hearted. The place is very crowded and complicated (a lot of escalators which will not be easy for people with luggage and kids).

Hotel or Apartment?
This is a question we struggled with initially. However, after a few trips bringing the kids overseas, we realised we preferred to bring fewer clothes, wash clothes daily and have more space and allowance for shopping!

And we realised we can save quite significantly on accommodations by choosing apartments over hotels. The savings can be pushed towards shopping and taxi rides (when the kids get cranky and refuse to walk any further).

Tips on booking apartments on AirBnB:
– Check all the photos. You must like what you see, give what you see a little discount in terms of the condition it will actually be in.
– Read all the reviews. It will give you a better idea about the place and host.
– Avoid listing in which have no reviews, the host is not verified or the host has previously cancelled on other guests (this appears under reviews).
– You can always message the host with your questions and requests before booking the place. Please do ask questions if in doubt.
– Keep communicating with your host regularly before your trip. I usually give them info like my flight details and my family (who is going and how old they are).
– Do note AirBnB has ‘excess pax charge’. This means on top of the room charges, if more people stay, each person is required to pay additional. A tip from my sister who is an avid AirBnB user is that you can ask the host if it is alright to top up to them in case when you check in. Some hosts may give discounts on this. For us, we did the top up in cash for the Gangnam apartment as on the system it states max 3 pax for that room but we actually have 5 pax (it didn’t show up in our search for 5 pax).
– There’re admin & cleaning fees too. So you can add the dates you are keen to see the final price before you decide.
– Security deposit is in case there’re damages that the host will claim against you. To be safe, take photos and videos of the room once you enter. We forgot about this during this trip as the kids were really a handful but it is highly recommended to do this.

How to search for the perfect apartment in AirBnB?
Again, if you are not an AirBnB member yet, please sign up through this link! You can get S$40 off your first trip (more than S$100) and I get to accumulate some credits towards our next trip. 🙂 Just in case you didn’t see the earlier link to sign up to get your discount, here it is again: www.airbnb.com.sg/c/audreyw1859

 

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Enter the neighbourhood you want to find, key in the dates and number of people, then select “ENTIRE HOME/APT”. Then click on “Find a Place.

 

 

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The apartments in your selected area will show up.

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Zoom in on the map (Click + on the map). And pull the map nearer to the area you want. The different available apartments will pop up in red with the pricing. You can click on them to find out more.

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Check the reviews. If the host has cancelled the booking, this is what you will see in the reviews. There are several reasons behind this, sometimes the guests is the one who wants to cancel but will incur a huge penalty and asks the hosts to cancel instead. Out of goodwill, some hosts may cancel so that the guests can get a refund. You should refer to the other reviews to make your decision. In this example, the host has “146 reviews for other properties”. You can click on “View Other Reviews” to find out more about the host before you decide if the cancellation in the review will affect your decision.

Always make a joint decision about the place you will be staying. If anyone of you does not feel comfy with the place, move on and look for another. Don’t let this affect your trip by playing blame game during the trip if the place turns out to be less than what you expected.

Next up: Itinerary Planning!
Keep a lookout!

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Mummy Audrey
Mummy to Big Boy, Baby Oppa & Meimei

Note: Mummy Audrey runs her own online store, www.TLO.com.sg, while looking after her 3 kids ages 9yo, 5yo, and 1yo. Her business focuses on Korean baby products, thus she travels to Korea frequently to source for new and unique products to bring into Singapore. 

Mummy Audrey and her children are available for product/service reviews as long as the products/services are not conflicting with her own products. Do contact her directly at audrey@TLO.com.sg if you are interested for her to review your product. 

 

2 thoughts on “Korea Travel Series Part 2: Pre-Trip Planning – Flights & Accommodations

  1. Pingback: Korea Travel Series Part 1: Pre-Trip Discussion | Mummies' Voices

  2. Pingback: Korea Travel Series Part 4: Day 1 – Myeongdong, Namsam Tower (Seoul N Tower), Two Two Chicken & Imsil Cheese Pizza | Mummies' Voices

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