For Singaporeans, there are 4 public holidays left in 2018: National Day on 9 August, Hari Raya Haji on 22 August, Deepavali on 6 November and Christmas on 25 December. As most of these fall on a Thursday or Tuesday, they are also great opportunities for diligent workers to take long-weekend vacations simply by taking 1 day off. Still, given that the average cost of a vacation in the ASEAN region could range from several hundred to over a thousand dollars, one's ability to travel for fun may be more restricted by financial budget than vacation days available for the remainder of the year. Here, we discuss 3 simple tips anyone can use to reduce their vacation costs in 2018 and beyond.
Book Your Flight As Soon As Possible
When it comes to booking your flight, timing is one of the most important factors that influence your travel cost. For example, our research shows that last minute bookers will end up paying over 25% to 350% more expensive for a roundtrip ticket compared to those who book 3-6 months out. While airlines will sometimes have flash sales closer to your departure date, in most cases every day you procrastinate your planning and wait to book your flight could cost you quite a bit of money, especially if you plan to travel in August. In terms of hotel, however, we found that timing didn't impact pricing as much.
If it's already too late to find an affordable flight, you may want to subscribe to services like Scott's Cheap Flights that alert you for flash sales and mispriced tickets. These services could work well for those who are looking for a cheap vacation without a specific destination in mind.
Utilise Your Credit Card's Benefits to Reduce Your Cost
If you like to travel at least a few times a year, you could be missing out on hundreds of dollars of savings every year by not taking advantage of perks that credit cards provide. For example, several travel credit cards like Citi PMV Card, DBS Altitude Card, HSBC Revolution Card and Maybank Horizon Card provide extra miles on online travel booking sites like Agoda, Expedia and Kaligo, which can help you earn free flights for your vacations later. Occasionally, banks will even partner with these online travel companies to provide special discounts on hotel bookings (10-20%) depending on the season, which provide great opportunities for savvy consumers to save.
Travel Benefits Provided by Credit Cards
Not only that, several of these cards also come with complimentary airport lounge access vouchers and built-in travel insurance, which can easily cost several hundred dollars annually for frequent travellers. Travel insurance can be particularly helpful if you are planning your trip far in advance. For instance, there were a number of events like volcano eruption and closures of beaches that severely affected travellers who had their trip planned out months in advance. Having a travel insurance could provide peace of mind in such cases, as it can guarantee that you can get a full refund for trips that were cancelled due to natural disasters or government actions. If your card doesn't provide this benefit, you can still purchase them for relatively cheap on your own.
Not All Miles Are Equal, Redeem Them Wisely
Related to both of the tips above, redeeming your miles smartly can help you save a lot of money on vacations each year. First, most travel credit cards provide mile rewards. By choosing one that fits your spending pattern well, you could easily earn enough miles for a free round trip ticket from Singapore to a destination in SE Asia every year. Besides making sure you have the right card that fits your expenditures (i.e. do you prefer a card that rewards all expenditures equally or do you tend to spend a significant amount of your budget on dining or shopping?), there are two rules you should follow to make sure you maximise the value of your miles.
First, whether you are booking you flight with your credit card or with your miles, you should always follow our first tip of booking your flights early. Taking Singapore Airlines as an example, people who can book months in advance have much higher chance of getting "Saver Awards" instead of "Advantage Awards" for their miles. Typically, Saver Awards require half as many miles for the same flight as Advantage Awards; however, it’s very popular and availability may be limited.
Secondly, not all miles are worth the same. In fact, miles redeemed for more expensive flights tend to be worth much more than miles redeemed for cheap flights. By comparing Singapore Airlines' Saver Awards to the actual dollar amount required to purchase those flights, we can calculate what a mile is worth for each redemption option. In general, you want to shoot for at least S$0.01 per mile or better; otherwise, it would be more economical to actually pay for the ticket with cash and use the miles for another flight.