Panic-free vacation planning

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Panic-free vacation planning


Illustrator Jang Seok-won often takes off on an impromptu vacation. Here, Jang waits to catch a boat at Yeongjong Island, Gyeonggi. By Kwon Hyuk-jae

It’s that time of year again - the peak of the summer vacation season. It’s a time of rest and relaxation, a time for family and friends and barbecues on the beach.

It’s also the time when people frantically rush around trying to book plane tickets, make hotel reservations and rummage through travel guides to find that perfect vacation spot - all at the last minute.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, there are the slow movers. People who haven’t been able to bring themselves to make vacation plans and yet still worry about where they’re going to go.

Here we see the two types of summer vacationer: people who don’t have any clue as to where to go and those who have already picked a place but haven’t made reservations.


A hiker pauses to take in the view from a peak atop Geumo Island in Yeosu, South Jeolla.

No matter which category you fit into, chances are you’re looking for the ideal vacation spot, but you’re not willing to go just anywhere and you definitely don’t want to find yourself caught in an area that’s swarming with other people on holiday.

But even if you plan everything from packing your bags to booking a place to stay, it will be hard to avoid crowds, traffic and overbooked hotels.

So here it is: a quick and dirty guide to last-minute vacation planning. It’s got everything you need for getting away this summer. Just follow along and you won’t have to beg the local hotel manager to have mercy and spare a room or bribe your travel agent to get you good a deal on an air ticket to some untested destination. Soon, you’ll be sitting on a beach, hiking through the hills or winging your way to some far-off destination without a care in the world.

By Lee Ka-young, Han Eun-hwa []

Every year for the past 10 years when vacation season rolls around, Mr. Byeon, 41, who is married with two daughters, has taken his family on trips to some of the country’s most beautiful islands.

But they don’t go to big-ticket islands like Jeju. Byeon and his family head out to smaller, lesser known isles such as Bogil, Wi and Imja. This year, they will be exploring the shores of Amtae and Palgeum Isle in South Jeolla. These quiet islands are free of holiday travelers, where you can check into a room even if you don’t make reservations.

If you don’t yet have plans for the holiday, you might want to give one of them a try. Although you will need to choose your destination at least a couple of days in advance and make a few calls to confirm your stay, a trip to these islands is relatively hassle-free.

Taking a passenger boat out to sea can be a memorable experience in and of itself, providing a lovely view of the surrounding scenery and a nice transition from work to vacation life.

Many passenger boats carry cars so if you own one, or can rent one, bringing it along can make getting around the island easier, and you won’t have to figure out the ins and outs of local transportation.

Once you arrive, there are beaches to explore, mountains to hike and fields to wander through.

For lodging, although some islands have fancy pensions, the best thing to do to get the true feel of island life is to stay at a private residence, or minbak, in Korean. Minbak are usually family-owned and operated and the gracious hosts are generally eager to make you feel at home.

To really do it like the locals do, you might want to bring along some extra food to share with your hosts, especially pork, which is difficult to find on the islands. You’ll win points from the minbak owners, and you may even find a few extra dishes on your breakfast plate in return.

Island hopping

Wonsan Isle in Boryeong, South Chungcheong, has three well-known stretches of sand, including Obongsan Beach.

Deokjeok Isle near Incheon and Hong Isle in Sinan County, South Jeolla, are famous for rocks with strange shapes, while Sapsi Isle in Boryeong County, South Chungcheong, still has the feel of ancient times.

Sarang Isle near Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, is famous for its knife ridge, while Ulleung Isle in the East Sea is good for tracking. Seonyu Isle in Gunsan, North Jeolla, is known for eight exquisite scenic areas, while Jeung Isle in Sinan County, South Jeolla, is good for long walks on the beach. Soan Isle in South Jeolla is famous for its jade-colored seawater. Ui Isle near Sinan County, South Jeolla, has a huge sand hill, a one-of-a-kind sight among Korean islands.

Somaemul Isle in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, is famous for its lighthouse.

For more information on Korea’s islands, visit (Korean only). The site, which is operated by the Korea Shipping Association, has information on over 3,000 islands in Korea. The Korea Tourism Organization also has a wealth of information in English at

The Web sites of local governments or municipalities in provinces with a high density of islands are also good sources of information. Try visiting the homepages of cities like Mokpo in South Jeolla, Daecheon in South Chungcheong, Tongyeong in South Gyeongsang and Gunsan in North Jeolla.

Tips for the spontaneous traveler

If you’re feeling the need to get far away this year, you may want to go international. With a little luck, and a push in the right direction, you might just find a great deal.

Last-minute airfare

The biggest bargains can be found if you don’t mind traveling on the fly.

Some lucky people have booked airline tickets to Bangkok for 100,000 won ($80.90) just days before the departure date. The price is a considerable discount from the average cost of 400,000 won for a round-trip ticket from Seoul to Bangkok.

Many airlines or travel agencies have tickets that they aren’t able to sell. Tickets like these get marked down by over 80 percent of their original cost, and because the tickets have been prepaid by the agencies, it’s a huge loss to them if they aren’t claimed. The ticket price drops as the departure date nears.

A round trip ticket to Hiroshima normally costs from 300,000 won to 400,000 won, but with the markdowns, it’s possible to buy them for 99,000 won.

Destinations most likely to be marked down are Bangkok, Phuket, Macao and other Southeast Asian countries, along with China and Japan, which often also have package deals.

Most of the tickets booked this way must be purchased on the afternoon before the departure date, are nonrefundable and follow a fixed schedule with no changes allowed.

Travel agencies that deal with offers like this can be found at, and It is best to check them regularly for bargains on your desired destination.

Airlines also offer discount tickets for less-frequented routes.

It all depends on the departure and arrival time and the destination.

Last-minute lodging

You may be in a hurry to get to your destination, but it is better to check online for hotel rooms than to do it on the spot.

Travel agencies often purchase a block of rooms from a hotel at discounts of up to 30 percent of what you would pay if you were to make a reservation on your own.

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