Singapore is such a small island it really isn’t that hard, or that expensive, to get out of it. You can take a bus out of the country from almost anywhere within an hour or two.
Then why is it that Singaporeans so often end up paying grossly inflated amounts for their holidays?
We’re talking about that guy who pays $400 for a return ticket to Phuket because he so desperately wants to avoid his relatives during Chinese New Year but didn’t have the foresight to book in advance. We’re talking about that couple who spends ten grand on their first trip to Europe because they insist on ascending the Eiffel Tower and riding in a Venetian gondola.
Travel can be ridiculously expensive if you’re inflexible and insist on travelling only on the days your geomancer identified as auspicious and engaging in all these overpriced touristy activities since all your Facebook friends did them too.
But if you’re smart and not too hung up on only doing things one way, here’s how being flexible can save you a ton of money.
If you’re going to travel over long weekends, sandwich them in between block leave
Everyone knows it’s cheaper to fly on weekdays than on weekends. But nobody wants to go on holiday from Tuesday to Thursday, because let’s face it, most Singaporeans get only about 14 days of annual leave, and every single day counts. Fail to incorporate the weekends and public holidays into your overseas holidays and, well, you’re just going to travel less than people who do.
That’s why so many people just suck it up and pay inflated air ticket prices over public holidays. In fact, the panic at being left behind over long weekends is so strong that people who’ve failed to plan in advance are willing to pay 3 to 4 times the usual price for a ticket to a neighbouring country.
While planning in advance can save you hundreds of dollars, another option is to sandwich weekends and public holidays in between a block of leave. So, if you want to go away over a three day weekend, you might choose to take the week before and after off as well. For nine days of leave, you’d be able to enjoy up to 16 days abroad (three weekends + one public holiday).
Even if you don’t want to use that much leave, just taking one or two days of leave before and after a long weekend can save you hundreds of dollars in airfare. If Friday is a public holiday, aim to depart on Tuesday or Wednesday instead of waiting till Thursday evening, when the entire world will be flocking to Changi Airport.
Have some flexibility with regard to destinations
Singapore is so brilliantly connected by air to the rest of the world that if you don’t get to see the Eiffel Tower/party at Potato Head in Bali/shop for otaku souvenirs in Tokyo this Labour Day weekend, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost your chance forever.
Those who are able to exercise a bit of flexibility with regard to where they go on holiday can save some serious cash, as there’s no telling when tickets to a particular destination will go on sale and when.
If you prefer to travel alone or with an easy-going partner, your choices of vacation destinations magically grow, and you can take advantage of sales whenever they pop up. I’ve flown to Europe several times for only 800 SGD, and that would not have been possible if I’d had to accommodate friends’ schedules or stick to a fixed plan to visit x cities in x days. (The downsides include not having any photos of yourself unless you’re shameless enough to use a selfie stick.)
Try maintaining a list of destinations you’d like to travel to, and favourite destinations you want to revisit. Whenever you’re on the market for a vacation, scroll through your options and check the prices online. With a wider range of destinations at your fingertips, there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to take advantage of a sale when it happens.
Don’t just blindly do all the expensive touristy stuff your destination offers
When you see the hordes of Chinese and American tourists queuing up to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge in harnesses, ride the London Eye Ferris Wheel, take the lift up the Eiffel Tower or ride in a Venetian gondola steered by a guy who’s comically attired in stripes and hat—don’t just blindly follow.
Let’s put it this way—few Singaporeans particularly want to fork out 33 bucks to ride the Singapore Flyer or pay 27 bucks for a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel.
Yet they don’t mind shelling out 17 euro (26 euro) to ascend the Eiffel Tower, 21.20 GBP (40 SGD) to ride the London Eye, a crazy 80 euro (123 SGD) for a ride in a Venetian gondola or at least 228 AUD/SGD to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which you can actually walk across for free.
If it’s always been on your bucket list, then make sure you’re prepared for the cost and go for it. But don’t just blindly follow the tour groups to every tourist trap in town.
Of course, it’s easier and takes less effort to just do whatever the tourist brochures and big signs filled with dollar/euro/yuan/yen signs are telling you to do.
But take a flexible approach to your own itinerary, giving yourself time to wander around new neighbourhoods and stop to chat with locals, instead of rushing from tourist site to tourist site with your selfie-stick in hand, and you might find that you not only have more fun but spend less, too.
What’s your travelling style like and is it an expensive or frugal one? Tell us in the comments!