While exploring exotic locations and solo trips have risen dramatically in popularity the past year, Singaporeans are notorious for neglecting their well-deserved vacation days. While there can be a number of reasons why this is the case, one of the predominant factors can be traced to the high daily cost of living that prevents Singaporeans from saving enough to afford taking time off from work for a vacation. This is especially true if you add a couple of children into the mix and you end up having to save hundreds of dollars more for the extra airfare, food and activities cost. However, with a well-planned out budget and some creative thinking, you may actually be able to afford a great holiday sooner than you think. Below, we show some ways you can plan to afford your next vacation.
Book your trip with your credit card, but have the savings to pay it off immediately
The fastest way to get into debt is to utilise your credit card for every expense, regardless of whether or not you have the funds to pay it off. If you are planning on spending a lot on your next trip, feel free to book the trip with your rewards or travel credit card, but make sure you have saved up enough to pay it off immediately. Saving for your trip will not only give you a better sense of your vacation budget, but it will also mean you'll pay off your credit card bill immediately without racking up interest charges. If you are just starting your career or you have a large family, your vacations may be less luxurious because of this—but there are plenty of great destinations that can be just as rewarding.
Go off the beaten path
If you want to save on your next trip and you are curious about indulging in the local culture, you may actually save a significant amount exploring less tourist-trodden cities. Instead of going to London or Paris, you can try exploring cities like Copenhagen or Warsaw, where flights are around S$300 cheaper. For destinations within Asia, some of the most budget-friendly off-the-beaten-path choices in the past year are Kuching, Osaka and Mandalay. At these locations, you can also save much more on hotels and food prices, since the local economy will be geared towards locals, and you will also be able to immersify yourself in the culture without falling for typical tourist traps you can find in larger holiday hubs. However, you should be aware that some smaller destinations can cost you more in airfare—in these cases, it may make more sense to fly into the international airport and travel to your destination by bus or train.
Consider alternative accommodations
If you notice your accommodations are your largest expense, you can consider staying at airbnbs, at hostel or with some friends. While it's nice to receive all the perks associated with an all-inclusive resort, chances are you can find a great apartment or bungalow for much cheaper and have a lot more privacy. In fact, renting an upscale private airbnb can save you up to 60% on accommodations per night than at a 5-star hotel. If you are travelling to a higher-risk destination like some places in Central America and the Caribbean, it may make sense to stay in a resort for safety reasons; but you can still find cheaper options that provide the same amount of perks as luxury resorts. If you're young and travelling to SE Asia or Europe, you can try hostels as they usually cost under S$50 per night while having modern hotel-type amenities and an opportunity to meet fellow like-minded travellers.
Know where and how to find discounts
While the jury is still out on whether or not independent travel agents save you money compared to booking online, you will definitely save more money if you book directly through the airline or hotel. Because hotels prefer to build a direction relationship with their customers, booking directly with your hotel can give you priority for room requests and special prices. If you stay at a local or independent hotel that are smaller than large hotel chains, you may get upgrades and better personalized service due to their desire to attract customers. Additionally, booking rooms directly lets you utilise your hotel rewards points which can help you earn points towards free stays or upgrades. If you mention you are celebrating something, some hotels will be more than happy to offer perks you may not otherwise get, like a bottle of alcohol, room upgrades and dining vouchers.
Mentioned previously, booking your trip with a great travel rewards card can help you put away miles towards free flights and other travelling perks. Even if you are starting out with modest vacations, using your credit card to book your flights can help you earn enough miles to redeem on a more luxurious getaway. Additionally, using your credit card's shopping portals can also help you save on package deals, as some banks like DBS and HSBC partner with Expedia and offer discounts if you go to Expedia through the banks' link.
Don't fall for travel myths and schemes
It is commonly believed that the best time to book a flight is on a Tuesday. However, that may not entirely be the case as flights depend on their capacity at time of purchase, the destination and taxes & fees. The most proven rule of thumb is in fact to book either a last-minute deal as some trip consolidators will offer last-minute discounts or to book at least 3-6 months in advance to see savings of up to 20%.
Also, if you want to avoid racking up miscellaneous fees, you should read up on your bank's exchange rate policy and international fees as well as what to expect in terms of credit card transactions at your destination. When given the chance to pay your bill your home currency, opt to pay in the local currency. This can save you between 3-5% in fees per bill.
Choose your pre-trip expenses wisely
If you want to make the overall cost of your trip cheaper, take into consideration all your travel-related purchases before your trip begins. While precautionary purchases like travel insurance are highly recommended to help prevent unforeseen trip and medical expenses. Dressing modestly at your destination can help you blend in better with locals (unless you are going to a place where fashion is integrated in the local scene) and ward off unwanted interests. Unless you are going on the trip of a lifetime, today's smartphones usually have good enough cameras to help you capture memories at a typical ASEAN resort and you don't need to purchase that S$1,000 Canon DSLR. Lastly, take care of your health and make sure you get all your immunizations done if you are travelling to a location that requires them so you don't end up getting sick and paying for expensive hospital stays.
While travelling is seen as an expensive luxury and finding the time to take a break can feel like a challenge, it is something that can benefit your life greatly. Taking time off from work (and even your family) is necessary to recharge your mental and emotional batteries. Whether you are completely immersing yourself in a brand new culture or you are relaxing at your favorite beach resort, vacation can help you become more productive, inspire new ideas and give you opportunities to do things you wouldn't normally be able to do. With just a little bit of research and some planning, you can go on your next vacation much sooner than you think.