On the way out I bought the upgrade to business class for $750 per person. That's a huge discount off just buying a business class ticket outright (which was around $5000 or more vs. the $1500 I spent on coach ; all-business class airlines were $8000). It's hard for me to judge the cost/benefit of something like to tell if it's a good purchase or not. If you've never flown first/business class - it's fucking great, it's everything you imagine. You get to wait in the private lounge, they hand you champagne when you get on, any amenity you ask for - toothpaste, slippers, etc. they give to you. The seats are wide and lean way back so you can actually sleep comfortably and not have horrible back pain afterward (this was a major motivation for me - $1500 is a lot, but it's much less than I spend on back related therapies). One thing I didn't consider actually turned out to be the most awesome win of all : you can board the plane at any time and jump the line, you have your own overhead bins that you don't have to fight with the coach riffraff for, and then when you leave the plane you have your own exit and get off in a snap. It completely removes the stress of flying, which comes from all the cows in coach who fight to get on first and are just so nasty. Also, it's sad but true that the people who fly business class just tend to be better human beings, they're polite, they don't talk loudly or have crying babies (as often) or fart a whole lot or kick you in the back of the seat.
Another expense issue I've been considering is the way so many westerners come here and turn into ridiculous penny pinchers. It's completely wrong to judge value by the local currency. You should judge cost/benefit value based on the amount of money you have and how easy it is for you to earn it. That is, if $1 is worth X happiness in your home town, it's still worth X happiness in Thailand, but stupid Farang come here and bicker over ten cents, or take ridiculous budget options. People will stay in 300 B hotels that are filthy and noisy instead of a 600 B hotel which is really nice. That's about $8. That's fucking stupid. People just seem to get into the mindset of the local currency level and related to that scale, but you shouldn't, you should stay on your scale. Everything is so cheap here, if it will make you happier, of course you should buy it. Some food item in the night market you're not sure about? Just buy it and try it and if you don't like it throw it out. Stupid.
A similar thing I've concluded is that taking public transit on vacation is fucking retarded. Yeah it's sort of fun once or twice cuz you get to figure out the system and you feel like a real local, but it's a HUGE waste of time. You're on vacation, you should not be standing waiting at a bus stop or a boat stop or whatever. Just hire a cab. In Thailand a lot of places will arrange shared transport for you, where you get on a shared longboat or taxi or minivan or something. You should refuse. Just get a private cab and go direct, don't fuck around picking up and dropping off other people, it wastes hours in total. The shared transport might be 400B , the private transport is 600B. Of course you should spend that.
Another one is that group tours are fucking awful. I've always known that, they're just a punishment, standing around with a mob of people, it ruins it. But in a place as cheap as Thailand of course you should just take a private tour. For example to take a group snorkeling boat might cost 350B per person. You can hire a private boat to take you for 1500B. Of course you should do that, it's a massive improvement to be alone and in control and be able to spend the amount of time that you want at each spot.
What about Thailand? It's pretty much exactly what everyone says, so I don't have a whole lot to add. Peak season sort of sucks at places like Railay and Phi Phi, I would recommend going in March or something if you want to go there. We've never failed to find a decent place to stay, but it has been very close to booked up and we've had to move hotels and things like that. We're winging everything and just moving around and discovering, it feels very free and wild, but also sometimes stressful because I don't know where I'll be tomorrow and I know I have to figure things out again.
Oh, travel agents really are just completely worthless, even in a strange foreign country where you might think they would help. To book flights, just use the internet. To find hotels, just walk around and see what looks good. To get transport just walk to a main road and flag someone down.