We may not get as much time off from work as the folks in France or Finland, where everyone gets at least 25 days of paid annual leave. But nobody can blame us for not using our annual leave productively.
We masterfully chain annual leave days with public holidays so we can go on overseas holidays while spending as little annual leave as possible. We nip overseas for weekend getaways at the drop of a hat.
That’s why, despite our relatively low minimum annual leave, we’re some of the world’s most frequent travellers. But going on shopping and eating pilgrimages 10 times a year can make you seriously poor. Here are five ways to plan holidays so you can travel longer and more cheaply, while still having a fun and meaningful time.
Plan your trip around one premium experience
We all work hard and need to “treat” ourselves every once in a while. But if you’re always staying at nice hotels and ticking off items on your Michelin restaurant list on every trip, you might be going a bit too far.
Treat yourself without feeling too deprived by picking one single premium experience per holiday, and planning your trip around that. You can then work to minimise all other costs.
For instance, you might want to visit that one fancy restaurant in Hong Kong, go for the Full Moon Party on Ko Phangan or spend a night in a French castle. Let these experiences be the focal point of your holiday, and then streamline your other holiday experiences and plan around them.
Tip: To save money on the other areas of your trip, stay in Airbnb apartments instead of hotels and seek out good yet cheap places to eat, either by using a guidebook or asking locals, your Airbnb host or online forums like Reddit.
Do as much free stuff as possible
Even a city as notoriously expensive as Singapore is full of free attractions. For every tourist who blows $300 partying at Cé La Vie, there’s another who’s enjoying a free visit to the permanent galleries of the Asian Civilisations Museum, having a picnic on the rooftop of the Esplanade and hiking Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
The thing is, finding free stuff to do can take a little leg work. If you’re the sort who likes to plan your trip in advance, create an itinerary that incorporates as many free activities as possible.
For instance, in many Western European cities, museums let visitors visit for free a few times a year, or even as often as once a month. Find out where your destination’s best parks and gardens are, as these are usually free and well worth an afternoon.
Free events and festivals take place a few times a year, and you can plan your trip around them—for example, there are numerous festivals at temples and shrines in virtually every city in Japan where people wear yukata and floats are paraded through the streets.
Tip: Some websites you’ll want to check include the calendar of festivals in the city, the websites of the main parks and gardens for free concerts and events, and the websites of museums to see if there are any dates and times where you can get free entry.
Some people enjoy punishing themselves by dragging themselves out of bed at 6am and visiting every single museum and monument in a city… before rushing off 2 days later to another major city. If that sounds like fun to you, be prepared to spend a lot in order to fit every tourist attraction into your itinerary.
A holiday that’s designed to help you relax and decompress can be much cheaper. Mindfully build blocks of R&R into your plans. You’ll force yourself to slow down, and as a result will spend less. You might see a smaller quantity of sights, but you’ll remember your experiences more vividly. It can be hard to force yourself to slow down but it’s worth it.
For instance, if you visit a French city like Toulouse in the summer, you’ll see hordes of locals sprawled on the lawn by the edge of the beautiful Garonne River. In Portugal, there are numerous miradouros or viewpoints that are free and offer stunning views of the city, so instead of just snapping a few photos and moving on, linger with a book and enjoy. And while many Singaporeans go nuts shopping in Bangkok, it’s also a great place to chillax due to the number of cafes and bars with a nice ambience.
Tip: Bring something that gives you an excuse to slow down and chill out. A book is a good option, so you can take an extended break in public spaces or at a cafe.
How do you save money when you travel? Share your tips in the comments!