With the annual June holidays around the corner, everyone in Singapore, even those without school-going children, is in the mood for a good holiday.
Budget airlines have made expensive travel a thing of the past; but how can you stretch your dollar even more? We’ve heard the usual tricks – book early, go nearby, avoid peak periods – but they only get you so far. Read on as I share 15 of my favourite tips to save money before and when you’re on holiday, so that you’ll stretch every last dollar, euro or yen.
1. Fly on a Wednesday
FareCompare claims that Wednesday is the cheapest day to fly, as it lies in the middle of the week, away from the hustle and bustle of pre and post-weekend travel.
A Malaysia Airlines return flight to Paris (via Kuala Lumpur), departing on a Thursday would cost you $1,625, whereas one departing on a Wednesday would cost you $1,450. While this is no hard and fast rule, do try to play around with your travel days to get the cheapest flights possible.
2. Be prepared to take connecting flights
Some people swear by direct flights; I call them boring and overly priced. Fair enough, they get you from A to Z, but what’s the point of going from A to Z without going to G and I?
Most continental airlines offer wonderful promotions to various destinations, with a layover in a regional hub. For example, a direct flight to Paris on Singapore Airlines would cost you $2,500, while one on Finnair costs $1,070.
Wouldn’t you rather save a $1,500 and tell your friends that you had a lovely holiday in Paris and Helsinki? The fact that you spent most of your time in Helsinki at the airport will be our little secret (or, you could maximise your trip by squeezing in a day trip to the city).
3. Book from the airline directly
Now that you’ve got your dates settled, forget flight search websites and head straight for the airline’s website to actually book it. Qatar Airways offered their trip to Paris for $1,200, while other online travel websites offered that same trip for $1,500.
4. Consider couchsurfing
Forget the Hilton or Ritz; couchsurfing is the new in. It works pretty simply – log on to CouchSurfing.org and share your travel details. Browse the listed profiles and find a kind soul who’s willing to let you crash on his couch for a few nights while you enjoy a well-deserved holiday.
A friend of mine met her boyfriend this way, so if you’re looking for Mr Right, this may be your ticket to him.
5. Stay at travel rentals
If sleeping on someone else’s couch while they’re in the next room seems a bit weird to you, why not rent someone’s place instead? It might be considerably more expensive but it certainly is a more affordable option than luxury and boutique hotels. Travel rentals concept is more popular with European destinations but it’s definitely a growing trend with more and more online travel websites offering such service.
One of the popular travel rentals websites is TripAdvisor’s Vacation Rental.
6. Change money at the… Money-Changer
He’s called a money-changer for a reason – he knows what he’s doing! Rather than pay pesky fees at ATMs and hotels, rely on these friendly men to get the most euro out of your dollar.
7. Register at the Singaporea Embassy
People who work at the embassy are often a tourist’s best friends – the fact that you’re both Singaporean is a wonderful bond and you might have insider information on hotels, promotions and sales.
8. Sightsee when it’s free
On a recent trip to Paris, I decided to indulge the culture-vulture in me by visiting as many of its famous museums as I could. To my delight, the Louvre opened late on Wednesdays and admission was free after 6pm. There are plenty of deals like this, so look around before you plan your itinerary.
9. Eat street food
Yes, you read it right. Street food is an affordable and, unlike what most people say, is generally safe. Choose stores with large crowds (not of gullible tourists, but locals) and you should be well fed, diarrhoea-free and considerably richer at the end of the day.
10. Take the road less travelled
The Château de Versailles is listed in every guidebook as a must-visit… but is it really? If jostling with crowds and paying expensive admission fees aren’t your thing, take a step back and explore your chosen city without the guidebook. You might find yourself aimlessly lost, but you might also find a charming café or bookstore where you’d much rather spend your time.
11. Always use Public transport
Don’t bother with taxis in most cities – they’re often expensive and you’ll probably spend a lot more time sitting in traffic than you’d like.
12. Look out for City Passes
If you’d like to get the most out of a city, check with its tourism board to find city passes. City passes often package transportation and admission to popular attractions for far less than if you were to buy them individually. Most European cities offer such passes, while you might have to buy transport and admission passes separately in cities such as Tokyo.
13. Leave the malls behind
A pair of socks at a Topman in London is going to cost the same at a Topman in Singapore – there really is little point to travel overseas to travel at big name stores that have outlets in Singapore. Instead, go for local designers who might sell what you want at half the price.
14. Bring a re-usable water bottle
Would you rather be the environmentally ugly tourist toting around a plastic bottle of water or the green traveller with a re-usable water bottle? The latter, obviously. Plus, you save quite a bit of money on water, especially in cities with fountains and drinkable tap water.
15. Buy travel insurance
I often scoffed at people who got travel insurance, but I’ve learnt to love the peace of mind it offers me. Lost baggage, cancelled flights, misplaced medication – there are a host of insurance packages for every traveller. Pick one that makes the most sense to you, but take into account how much you’re spending on your trip. It’s not wise to spend $300 on a single-trip travel insurance if you’re planning to go for a quick 3-day getaway to Hong Kong for $400.