Spending too much on your vacations? I am no expert in this area but having travelled to almost 40 countries, I can offer some tips on how to keep budget low for your trips.
Compare and compare
There are a lot of articles advising the best times or the best days to buy an air ticket. However, I’ve found it to be too complicated with many conditions to follow.
For me, since I usually only travel when there’s a public holiday or a long weekend (because I hold a day job), it is difficult to get cheap air tickets which are normally on sale for weekday departures. So what I do is compare and compare.
Skyscanner and Cheapoair are 2 websites I use nowadays to do a quick comparison to find out which airlines are available and the price range. After that I will go to the individual airline website directly to check the timings and air ticket prices.
It was through Skyscanner that I got to know that United Airlines fly from Hong Kong to Singapore during the Chinese New Year Period at 50% of the cost of other carriers, including the budget airlines! (that is, if you don’t mind the crappy flight timings)
It helps to sign up to the airline websites as well since they usually will notify you when there’s a promotion.
Fly with budget airlines
Tigerair, Airasia, Jetstar; these are some very popular budget airlines that allow travelers to fly cheaply, even for as cheap as $1! However be careful of the fine prints and know what’s included in the price of the tickets otherwise you may end up paying a lot more, especially for baggage.
The (not-so-)new kid-on-the-block Scoot, which is owned by Singapore Airlines, is also relatively cheaper for flights between Hong Kong and Singapore. I like the big planes they use (787 Dreamliners!) and personally feel that their crew are more professional and friendlier than many other budget airlines. If only their flight timings are better…
Do you know that there are budget airlines for Japan? Vanilla Air fly to Tokyo and Fly Peach takes you to Okinawa if you fancy some time on the lovely Japanese island. Hong Kong based low-cost airline Hong Kong Express has flights to almost 30 countries in Asia.
Redeem free air tickets
Sign up for a credit card that allows you to earn miles and eventually redeem free air tickets. There are different credit cards tied to a particular frequent flyer programme so you need to consider carefully which one is more suitable for you.
However, Citibank PremierMiles Card allows you to redeem miles for 10 different frequent flyer programmes. Plus the welcome offer is fantastic with up to 8,000 miles to give away! I love my Citibank PremierMiles Card!
I’ve seen many travel bloggers recommending their readers couch-surfing and home-sitting to save money. I understand many of us are not comfortable doing that, especially if you want privacy during the trip. So this is what I would recommend – rent your accommodation through Airbnb or Roomorama.
I guess many of you are already familiar with the concept of Airbnb where you can rent either a room or the entire house for your trip. I have used Airbnb on several occasions and am extremely satisfied with the apartments, except for 1, and the hosts were all great. The one thing to do is always read the reviews and only book those with good feedbacks.
A similar online booking platforms to Airbnb, which may be unknown to some, is the Singapore-based Roomorama. There was once when I booked an apartment in San Francisco that was also advertised on Airbnb but I got it cheaper on Roomorama! However, this may not be the case across the whole platform.
The best thing about the online booking platforms is they are usually cheaper than a hotel, especially if you are travelling in a big group. If you have not yet sign up, use these links for Airbnb and Roomorama to book an accommodation for your next trip! By clicking on the links, I will receive some credit when you make a reservation but at no additional cost to you.
For hotels, I always compare prices among the different websites. I like using Booking.com, Agoda and Hotels.com to shortlist the hotels before comparing their prices with the hotels’ direct websites, if they are available. Sometimes the hotels offer cheaper rates if you book with them directly since they save on commissions charged by the hotels booking platforms but check the terms and conditions carefully.
Some credit cards also give further discounts on these websites; for example HSBC cardholders can get 5-7% discount if they booked through Agoda.
When in Rome, do what the Romans do.
I usually try to eat what the locals eat! You not only get cheap food you will also get good food. For instance when I was in Vietnam, I had my fair share of local food like Bun Moc, Banh Mi, Bot Chien, Bun Cha, and they were all delicious! And most importantly, CHEAP!
I’m not saying that you should avoid the Michelin-starred restaurants if you are in a city littered with famous chefs’ kitchens but simple and delish local food can be good alternatives especially if budget is your main concern. Bear in mind that some Michelin-starred restaurants are really cheap though, like Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong.
I discovered several years ago that the local supermarkets and stores are usually a great place where you can find souvenirs, especially if you are looking for local food and snacks to bring home for your family and friends. The things you can find in these shops can sometimes surprise you and they are usually much cheaper than the souvenir shops on the busy tourist streets.
5) Tourist Attractions
Pay less for admission fees
Admission fees for most of the tourist attractions are expensive; they are at the end of the day, for the overseas visitors. However, a way of getting around the high entrance fees is to pay for the “reduced fees” which are usually for students. So if you are a student or still have your student card, use it! Just make sure the photograph still look somewhat like you. The savings from paying the reduced fees can add up and you can use the extra $$ for an additional (or a few) gelato(s) or a cup of coffee!
Find free things to do!
You will be surprised at how many things can be done for free or almost free in a lot of the cities.
Many museums in Europe and America, like the Tate Gallery in London and Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C., are free. If you are not a museum-person like me, visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris or Duomo di Milano in Italy without the need to pay! If you are in Asia, you can visit both famous Sensoji Temple and Meiji Shrine in Tokyo or take a walk around the Hoan Kiem Lake (Lake of the Restored Sword) in Hanoi. Or take a walk inside the Gardens by the Bay (the open and free park) in Singapore and enjoy the greenery, all at zero cost!
There are also free guided tours which allow a 2-way exchange between the locals and travelers. The Hanoi Free Tour Guides is one such example and I can vouch for the authenticity of it. This is not a gimmick where the tour is free for the first 30 minutes than ask you to pay for the rest of the tour. I really enjoyed the company of the student tour guide I met.
There you are, some great ways to keep budget low for your trips. Happy travels! 🙂
**Note: This is NOT a sponsored article. However, it contains affiliate links where if you sign up using those links, I will receive some credit AT NO ADDITIONAL COSTS TO YOU.