10 best-kept travel secrets

Written by Donovan January 31, 2016 Category: Asia, Europe Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments

Thanks to budget airlines, Skyscanner and other various social websites (eg. Couchsurfing, airBnB, WWOOFing, Workaway etc.), it has provided people with more travel opportunities and to make new friends across the globe. Here are some tips on how you can get more travel for your buck.

1. Choose another gateway
Sometimes, the most direct route is not necessarily the best. It may make more sense to embark on your long-distance flight from a neighbouring airport. In our case, this would be Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, served by regular budget flights from Singapore Changi Airport. The reason being the headquarters of national carriers usually charge more for residents departing from home base.

2. Eleventh-hour benefits
Latecomers can end up with the best deals. If you are not too fussy about where you will be holidaying, start foraging at the many last-minute travel websites about a fortnight before your plan to take off.
Some websites for example: www.latecomers.com, www.laterooms.com, www.ratestogo.com, www.11thhourvacations.com offer flights and accommodation at affordable prices.

These range from five-star properties to no-star basics that are dumped onto these sites so that hotel rooms are sold for a song rather than left vacant.

Some sites, frustratingly, require you to book with an American credit card. One trick to overcome this dilemma is that once you have secured the special Internet rate, call or email the hotel directly, tell them where you got it from and ask if they can match it. Chances are, the hotel will relent as it means dealing directly with the customer rather than paying a commission to the travel site.

3.Bid, don’t just cough up
Think hotel rates in major cities are out of reach?
Join the online bidding frenzy at Internet travel sites like www.priceline.com.sg, www.hotwire.com and www.wotif.com.

These sites allow you to enter your travel date, destination, choice of room type, desired hotel star rating, maximum price you are willing to pay and your credit card details. It also gives you selections of specific areas within a large city. For instance, you can select Covent Garden, Oxford Street or Hyde Park when zooming in to London.

If a match becomes available, the hotel room or air ticket is yours. If your offer is unsuccessful, there is no charge. Either way, you will be notified within the hour.

4. Take the airline less travelled
Save a bundle by travelling on lesser known airlines such as Air Lanka, Kuwait Airways or Qatar Airways. Though the last one has been gaining popularity in recent years, for its affordable flights to Europe via Doha.

The airline you choose should depend on the preferred flying dates and times, and onward connections. Being adventurous expands your options. I flew on a codeshare flight on Cathay Pacific from Sweden to Singapore, via London and Hong Kong. It cost S$500 only for a one-way flight. Another recent flight that I took was Singapore to London on Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur which cost only S$440 one way. From London, I then made my way to Paris via the myriad of options such as budget flights, Eurostar express or coach.

5. Act quickly, but read the fine print
Budget airlines may tempt you with incredible offers, especially for low seasons such as non-holiday periods or when there are no long weekends, but you would have to act quickly.

Do not believe the price advertised because taxes are usually not included or the sale tickets would have been snapped up within minutes. Always make sure to click to the last stage before payment confirmation to see how much “additional taxes” have been added to the base price, and if it is still worth it to you, book the ticket immediately, otherwise the price would definitely increase within the next few days.

6. Protection Please
The recent weather phenomenon such as typhoons, earthquakes, blizzards would have put your travel plans on hold. These are often unpredictable and may affect your travel, so it is important to get travel insurance for peace of mind.

Frequent travellers may want to get an annual insurance cover, ranging from $250-$600, which is cheaper than buying separate policies each time you travel out of the country.

7. Living it up in the air
Sick of travelling in economy class with wailing babies and narrow legroom?
Always wanted to know how it feels to luxuriate in first or business class, to stretch out your legs or lie flat on the bed while flying? Then you should consider a flight to/from Kuala Lumpur.

For a few more dollars, you can experience upscale, first-class pampering, such as use of the lounge, boarding at your convenience, wider seats onboard and service by a stewardess who will respectfully address you by your last name.

The thrill of flying first class, especially if its your first time, will probably linger for a long while.

8. Around the world for less
If you are taking a big trip that covers three or more continents, or are crossing two oceans, you can opt for a round-the world (RTW) air ticket.
This leverages on airline alliances, eg. Star Alliance, One World or Sky Team, the three major airline alliances in the world.

Star Alliance has the fewest restrictions. The RTW Economy fare for a Singapore-London-New York-Japan-Singapore trip on Star Alliance carriers would cost $4900, compared to paying $12900 for point-to-point tickets.

On a RTW ticket, you can make a maximum of 15 stops covering no more than 28 sectors. The duration of your trip should be from 10 days to a year and you must travel in one direction. Most of the popular destinaitons include Fiji, Madagascar, Galapagos Island, Easter Island because these destinations are very expensive to fly to due to their inaccessible location, so it makes more sense to use a RTW ticket to visit these places.

9. Must-visit: travel websites
Don’t go blind. Go with the benefit of hindsight.
Find out more about shady areas to avoid, new restaurants worth trying or cheap and good hotels from other travellers in discussion forums such as www.tripadvisior.com.

It is a great way of researching aspects of your destination that may not be readily found in travel guidebooks, plus they are always updated by the travellers who had just visited the place.

You can also pose queries – useful if you are trying to find out specific details about your hotel or the alleys surrounding it – and don’t trust the advertising spiel.

10. Redemption vs upgrading
Keep tabs on all the frequent flier miles chalked up from your travels or from your credit card spending.

If you have plenty, redeem them for family trips to enjoy bulk savings. If not, use them to upgrade yourself on your next trip.

By upgrading, you can still earn points for the economy or business class air ticket that you paid for.

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