Airfare (14% of the budget)
Anyway, we were able to get 5 MNL-KLO-MNL tickets for only Php5,135.20 ($116). Yup, that’s only Php1,027.04 ($23) per person! That amount already included two 15-kg check-in baggage allowance per way for the whole group. We didn't think the group’s baggage would weigh a lot even with wet clothes so we decided that 30 kg was enough. Besides, there’s still the 7-kg hand carry allowance per person that we could utilize.
Now that the local airlines have scrapped the fuel surcharge, we can expect even lower fares! :)
AirAsia is my favorite local budget airline because they have less miscellaneous charges than Cebu Pacific. I have also never experienced any delays with them, partly because I always avoid traveling during peak season.
Airport Transfers (14% of the budget)
We could have saved as much as Php1,000 ($23) if we did the DIY transfers, but we were with two 50+-year-olds. More than anything, we wanted our parents to be comfortable on the way to a tropical paradise. Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate the beauty of a place when you’re exhausted and starving.
Accommodation (19% of the budget)
Against my will, I searched the Internet for decent Station 3 resorts. I say 'against my will' because there's this urban legend that says this part of White Beach is the "least beautiful" because the sand is not that fine, it's super crowded and it's full of annoying touts. Because of its reputation, the resorts and hotels in Station 3 are supposed to be a lot cheaper.
But comfort doesn't have to come with a hefty price tag (cliche! cliche! :p)
Thankfully, the location of Orchids Beach Resort isn't too far from the beautiful beach, just 2 minutes away based on my parents' walking pace (yes, we timed it). What sealed the deal was, of course, the price. They gave us their low season rate of Php1,500 ($34) a night for one aircon room that's good for 3 people. The room looked a bit tired but clean, the beds were firm, the linen was fresh, and the A/C, TV and water heater worked fine - couldn't have asked for a better deal! It was actually big enough for 5 people, but nobody wanted to sleep on the extra mattresses so we booked another room for our parents. We'd also like to believe that we are not that cheap ;-)
Of course, you have to align your expectations with how much you're willing to pay. You shouldn't expect 5-star amenities and service when you only pay Php1,500 a night. In Boracay, that is cheap. But the good thing about Orchids Resort is that they don't compromise their service regardless of their low rates.
Other options in the vicinity (Station 3)
Why choose the southern end of Station 3?
Here is the common belief about the stations of White Beach:
- Station 1 - high-end resorts and restaurants; most expensive; best beach
- Station 2 - busiest area because of D'Mall; access to the best restaurants and shops; mid-range hotels
- Station 3 - 'ugliest' stretch; cheapest rooms; crowded; so-so restaurants
I think that things in the 4km-long White Beach change a lot so quickly that it's hard to categorize things into just blacks and whites. At some point, the above assumptions may have been true, but based on our most recent trip I can say that Station 3 is most definitely NOT ugly - at least the part where we stayed. Many times, we walked from Station 3 to Station 2 and we seriously couldn't pinpoint any major difference in the "quality" of the sand - or maybe it just wasn't our top priority and that we didn't want to be hung up on something we thought was so trivial. We refused to let our Boracay vacation be defined by the softness or fineness of the sand in the station where we chose to stay (different folks, different strokes!)
Get that beachfront chair!
So rather than paying extra thousands of pesos on a beachfront accommodation, we opted to hang out at Shantal's Resto Bar in Station 3 (beside Arwana Hotel). We just had to buy fresh fruit shake at Php90/$2 or local beer for as low as Php35/$0.8 during Happy Hour - and voila, we already got our own beachfront chairs and table for free :)
We could have sat on the sand instead of being 'forced' to buy some drinks if we really wanted to, but the parents needed the chairs to be able to relax under the sun. Besides, who could say no to cheap beers during Happy Hour? The chairs were just a bonus ;) Beers + chairs + gorgeous Boracay sunset = happy family.
Food (31% of the budget)
I spent a lot of time researching about good restaurants near our resort because I didn't want my parents to get tired by walking aimlessly not knowing where to eat and just end up eating bad food.
- Casa Pilar - good enough Filipino dishes that are priced at ~Php250-300 each ($5-6.5)
- Crown Regency - seafood dinner buffet + bottomless iced tea at Php400 ($9) per person
- Nagisa Japanese Cafe - has an extensive menu of Japanese, American and Filipino dishes at Php100-250 ($2.5-6) each
- Sunny Side Cafe - all-day breakfast items that are a bit pricey at Php250-350 each ($5-9) but serving size is huge!
- Smoke Resto (D'Mall) - tasty Pinoy dishes that are relatively cheap at Php150-250 ($3-5)
- Aria (D'Mall) - Italian food priced at Php350 ($8) and up
Note 2: There are sooo many stalls and restaurants on the island that serve very good fresh fruit shakes that I personally don't think going all the way to Jonah's in Station 1 from your resort in Station 3 will be worth it. Casa Pilar's banana shake, The Sunny Side Cafe's mango shake, and Shantal's coconut shake can definitely give Jonah's a run for its money.
Note 3: It is feasible to walk from the southern end of Station 3 to D'Mall if you'd like to eat there, but it will take a LOT of time (30-45 minutes). Since we were with our parents, we chose to take the tricycle to and from D'Mall, which was Php60 to 75 per way ($1.5) for the whole group.
Water activities (18% of the budget)
Most of our activities were arranged by Kuya Nino (+63 915 872 2855). Rates fluctuate depending on the season but be sure to ask for discount, especially if you're a big group!
- Island Hopping - Php1,800 ($40.5) for the whole group, 4 hours, w/ snorkeling gears
- Parasailing - Php600 ($13.5) per person
- Fly Fish - Php600 ($13.5) per person
- Some very persistent touts know how to work their 'pathos' (i.e. begging on their knees), so to avoid misplacing your compassion (and funds!), be firm in saying no in a clipped tone. If you think that that's a rude way of telling the touts off, you can always smile, tell them you've already purchased the same item earlier, and scurry off. But sometimes smiling will further encourage them, so completely avoiding eye contact should be able to do the trick.
- Speaking of souvenir items, they are considerably cheaper in D'Talipapa than in D'Mall. That's another advantage of staying in Station 3! :-)
- Lastly, when you're visiting during off-peak season, there's a chance that it's going to rain! Be prepared by bringing your umbrellas, raincoats, and waterproof pouches. We spent extra bucks for these items that we left at home and we had to buy them on the island because it rained 2 days out of 3.
- There are a lot of tourist traps on the island. If the offer sounds too good to be true, then it's too good to be true (e.g. free buffet dinner, hidden charges, etc.)
Anyway, here are our trip's itinerary, expenses and 'carbon footprint'. We were a bit over budget ;-) I'm sure there are better ways to maximize our Php35,000 but we were really happy with how our vacation went.
Other useful resources:
Boracay on the cheap by Two2Travel
Boracay on a budget by JustOneWayTicket
The budget travel guide to Boracay by The Poor Traveler
Boracay family travel guide by Trekking with Twins