Yuliya Mavletbaeva and her daughter Alessandra Correia (2).
Return flights from Beijing to Caticlan via Manila were around RMB 7,000 for one adult and one child (not an infant ticket). Staying in three different hotels for a total of 11 nights came to about RMB 10,000. Other costs, including a private boat ride from Caticlan to Boracay and back, came to approximately RMB 3,500. The grand total of their 11 night, 13 day stay was approximately RMB 20,500.
Yuliya started searching for air tickets three weeks prior to her Chinese New Year trip, but suggests others to start even earlier. She compared prices on www.elong.net before booking flights through an agent. The flight from Beijing to Manila took just under six hours with Philippine Airlines. The flight from Manila to Boracay (Caticlan) was booked through www.philippineairlines.com, but the flight was with Air Philippines. Be careful not to confuse the similiarly-named airlines. All of the hotel rooms were booked online through Agoda.com.
They stayed for three nights at the Manila Diamond Hotel (www.diamondhotel.com). A Superior Room with breakfast came to USD 450 after a 30 percent discount. Yuliya was very satisfied with her stay. The location was convenient, the staff were polite and attentive, and breakfast was great.
In Boracay, they stayed at The Residences at Fairways and Bluewater New Coast Hotel (www.fairwaysandbluewater.com/website/main.htm). After a 25 percent discount, a standard room including breakfast cost USD 869 in total. The hotel is far from the famous White Beach, which in retrospect was a good thing: White Beach is crowded and quite noisy in comparison to the tranquility of their hotel. The Residences also has a great view, an infinity pool, a kids pool and two private beaches. Though they didn’t like the food at the hotel, they were able to prepare their own in the kitchen of their one-bedroom suite. The hotel has a free shuttle bus that departs hourly to White Beach and D’Mall, where you can buy groceries. With daughter in tow, Yuliya made frequent trip to buy diapers, milk, and yogurt.
A one-night stay in a Deluxe Room at the Marriott Hotel Manila (www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/mnlap-manila-marriott-hotel) cost USD 190. The price included tax, breakfast and a free hourly shuttle bus to and from the airport. The only advantage here is that it’s convenient to get to the airport. Even though the pillows and the huge glass shower were nice, Yuliya was not impressed with the hotel or its staff.
The Best Part
Upon arrival at The Residences at Fairways and Bluewater New Coast Hotel in Boracay, they had to change rooms twice before they were finally satisfied with the third air-conditioned room. In spite of being full of guests, The Residences hotel in Boracay upgraded them to a one-bedroom suite at no extra cost. The suite had two TVs, meaning Yuliya could watch the foreign channels in peace while her daughter watched cartoons in the other room – a luxury they don’t have back in Beijing. Alessandra loves animals, which is great because the hotel in Boracay has horseback riding and a little pond with ducks. Alessandra also loved riding in the golf carts that carry hotel guests around the grounds.
The Worst Part
Traveling alone with a young child was somewhat inconvenient. Yuliya was unable to go for a swim on her own or enjoy a sunbathing session. While the hotel offered a babysitting service, Yuliya did not take advantage of it.
Air Philippines’ service was quite slow and the pair sat in a very hot outdoor waiting area before boarding, due to construction at the Boracay airport.
People were friendly and Yuliya was at ease traveling on her own with her daughter. The staff at the Diamond Hotel and The Residences were great.
Ocean Park in Manila is quite small, but Alessandra loved it just the same. And there were plenty of activities at The Residences in Boracay, from a boat ride around the island to go-karting. There were no problems with language, and there was no need for a tour guide. Yuliya took taxis everywhere with only a map in hand.
If traveling during Chinese New Year, book plane tickets and hotels as early as possible, because the holiday is celebrated there as well.
The family stayed in Manila for four days. Next time, they will head directly to the beaches and spend less time in the capital.
Be aware of which airline you’re flying with and double-check you’re heading to the right airport. Air Philippines and Philippine Airlines, which sound similar, fly out of different airports. And if you’re flying with Air Philippines, leave ample time, as they are on the slow side. Also, they only allowed 10 kilos of free luggage from Manila to Caticlan.
Expect a lot of taxes at hotels, airports and restaurants.
Most cab drivers kept the small change as tip. Make sure your driver has turned their meter on, as most don’t like to comply with this rule.