Try these travel hacks to make everything that little bit more affordable.
Life in fast-paced Singapore can be brutal, and everyone needs time away to recharge. But saving for that long-awaited vacay can be tricky, since it’s not easy to gauge exactly how much everything is going to cost. The good news is that there are ways you can make life a little easier — and cheaper — when it comes to going on holiday.
Let’s break it down. There are mainly three cost components when travelling: flights, accommodation and food. In all these areas, there’s “currency” you can earn that reduce your cash outlay, leaving you free to enjoy even the most spontaneous of getaways, whenever you choose.
Singaporeans are hooked on cashback credit cards. To the average consumer, earning a small kickback everytime they swipe their card is reward enough. But not for you, the smart traveller. You will commit no such folly.
What you want instead is a healthy amount of air miles in your account, which you can then use to redeem free flights and accommodation. That’s two out of the three costs of travel covered.
Start by switching to an air miles credit card, which gives you miles when you spend locally and overseas (you’ll get bonus miles for the latter). Hot tip: UOB PRVI Miles gives you 1.4 miles per S$1 spent locally — the highest base air miles earn rate on the market so far. And, they just lowered the card’s salary requirement to just S$30,000 per annum, opening up an air miles bonanza to a good many people.
Next, double up on your points by making full use of promotions, such as booking through Expedia or Agoda to earn bonus miles — yes, that on top of your basic earn rate.
One more advantage of using an air miles card — you often get complimentary travel insurance, which will come in useful in the face of unlikely events such as losing your luggage or flight cancellations and delays. Coverage vary widely among different air mile cards, so be sure to check before you apply.
If you find yourself spread thin trying to cover both flights and accommodation using air miles alone, an alternative would be to invest in a good hotel loyalty programme.
There are many hotel loyalty programmes out there that can provide a host of benefits, such as free upgrades, welcome services, discounts on — and even free — rooms.
The best loyalty programme may be one that lets you bank up a series of free nights, to be used at any hotel you like, anywhere in the world. We’re talking about Hotels.com. This hotel search and reservations app has a refreshingly simple rewards programme: Book 10 nights through the app, and get 1 night free. The value of your free night is an average across all the 10 nights you’ve booked. The best thing is, you can use the free nights at any eligible hotel.
This reward mechanism would just be so-so if it weren’t for the fantastic member’s prices you’ll unlock as you go along. Use this to your advantage by offering to book friends’ and family’s accommodation using your Hotels.com account, especially if you qualify for a promo price on the hotel they want.
Booking multiple rooms this way will help you reach and fill up your minimum requirement of 10 nights at a quick pace. And, if you’re sharing rooms, you’ll raise the overall value of your eventual free night.
Once you’ve racked up those free nights, redeem them to give yourself a much-needed pampering at that boutique hotel you’ve been Insta-stalking.
With flights and accommodation taken care of, the next thing you need is moolah. Or more accurately, currency of the country you’re visiting.
Between bills and unforeseen expenses, it can be hard to come up with the cash you’ll need for your vacation. And there’s nothing less satisfying than going on holiday without quite enough money.
To help prevent this regrettable situation (and to avoid overseas ATM fees), consider applying for a multi-currency account (MCA). You can then withdraw the currency you need when you get to your holiday destination. Some banks even waive the foreign exchange fees.
You can see how this can be useful: Get an MCA and regularly put aside a small amount in the currency of your top three vacation countries. This will ensure that you have a steady pool of funds that you can use when you’re on vacation.
And because out of sight is out of mind, your travel funds are more likely to be preserved, instead of being frittered away in late-night online shopping binges with the money in your regular account.
By Chip Chen, July 2018 / Updated November 2019