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Thursday, May 01, 2014

Northern Exposure: Planning and Booking

The Hubby and I decided on our family vacation to the north of Philippines sometime in January. We figured we have ample time for planning and preparation from January up to the actual date of our vacation which is the Holy Week.

1. Accommodation
But while we decided early, we didn't book for hotels right away. Having no previous experience traveling to the Ilocos region, I was not aware that hotels and resorts could all be taken and reserved a month before Holy Week.

Apart from availability issues, we had to deal with extreme overpricing for accommodation in Pagudpud. All resorts in Pagudpud had their room rates doubled or tripled during the Holy Week. While I understand this is a common business practice that tourist spots do have peak rates and off-peak rates, I find it distasteful and even borderline to abusive that a room that costs only Php1800 during off peak would suddenly cost Php6000 on Holy Week. It's like highway robbery.

It's slightly better in Laoag and Vigan where the super peak rate (which is Holy Week) is about Php500 higher. But go further down in La Union, we find ourselves again picking up our jaw from the floor as resorts after resorts showed us their hefty price tags for rooms that are so bad looking we would NOT even pay Php1000 a night.

2. The Road Trip
Since we're traveling with kids (ages 7, 4 and 1.9 months) we had to consider carefully the departure time and plan our stop overs so the kids are not deprived of proper meals.

We agreed to leave Rizal at 3am and expected to arrive in Laoag, where we will spend the night, at around mid afternoon. However, traveling on a long weekend when almost half of Metro Manila is also heading where we're going, we got stuck in traffic in various parts of the trip. Also with kids in tow, a stop over for a decent meal takes a minimum of 1 hour (versus my planned 30 minutes).

The good news is the road to the north is impressive; wide, smooth and paved all the way. There are plenty of road signs to assist travelers so it's hard to get lost.

To cut significantly your travel time, take NLEX, then SCTEX and continue on with TPLEX. The total toll fees would be around Php486 (one way), a small amount to pay I would say compared to the time and fuel you'd be able to save.

3. The Budget
Gasoline expense for us was about Php5,800 in total for the entire trip and we still had some gas for 4 round trips to work (Taytay-Ortigas). Our very reliable SUV ....up to 11.5 kilometers per liter. I bet we could have done even better if The Hubby didn't have to overtake a lot during the entire trip.

For accommodation, we could not avoid by get 2 rooms in Laoag since the hostel (Supertram Lodge) we booked didn't have a room that would fit us all. Anyway, the air-conditioned room for 4 cost only Php1350 while we paid only Php600 for the room for 2 with aircon.

We decided not to spend a night in Pagudpud due to the unforgiving room costs and just return in the evening to Laoag. It's just an hour and a half by land anyway and we'd like to visit a few tourists spots on our way back (e.g. Bangui Windmill).

For Vigan, there's the newly opened Metro Vigan Inn which offered us a room for 4 adults (3 kids on extra bed) for a lovely Php2200 including breakfast. This is very good rate for a new and well furnished hotel. I'll post a separate review.

Food can be expensive or affordable depends on where you eat. Fast food chains like Jollibee and McDonalds are everywhere! The food is quite overpriced in Pagudpud (again!) considering the quality. However, if you're on the beach and would like to grill, buy fresh food at the market before heading to the resort.

Here's a summary of our Northern Exposure Experience:
Laoag to Pagudpud
A Visit to Bantay Abot Cave
Amazing Bangui Windmills

Useful links on accommodations and other information are found below:

Supertram Lodge
Loag City
Tel No

Metro Vigan Inn
Bayubay Norte, San Vicente
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
(077) 674 0448


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