Short family getaways can end up costing you more money than expected. Use these tips to remain in control of your budget.
Short family vacations can be deceptively pricey.
Because they’re just for a brief period (e.g. three days), and the overall cost is low, we tend to focus less on our spending – we assume it’s all affordable, and thrift goes out the window.
How often have you gone to Johor or Batam with a few hundred dollars, thinking it’s going to be enough, and end up spending twice the budgeted sum?
Here’s how to avoid making the same mistake again.
1. Head to Where You’ve Got Friends (or Relatives)
The wonder of a short vacation is that, most of the time, people are willing to put you up. A week may be too intrusive – but most friends and relatives would be happy to have you for two or three nights.
This can save you several hundred dollars on hotel bills. On top of that, you’ll have a host to tell you the best places for eating, sight-seeing, shopping, etc. without getting ripped off.
Even if your friend or relative can’t put you (they may not have room for your whole family), they can often help you with transport. If your accommodations are near them, they might be able to drop you off in town; or at the very least show you how to use the public transport system.
This will allow you to save money on ride hailing like Uber or Grab, and also avoid getting ripped off by unscrupulous cab drivers.
2. If Travelling During the Holiday Season, Try to go on Weekdays
If you’re going to places like Bintan or Batam, then avoid weekends like the plague. That’s when every other tourist is cramming their way onto the ferry, or lining up to use resort facilities.
During weekends, prices rise across the board. Hotels up the room rates, ferries charge more per trip, and even shops may raise their prices. Besides paying more, you’ll also have to wait in longer lines, and suffer through overcrowded malls or rushed eateries (when restaurants are swamped with tourists, food standards often go down).
Also note that predators, such as scam artists and pick-pockets, are out in force during peak tourism periods.
3. Keep Leftover Currency For Destinations You Frequent
If you visit the same vacation spot often (e.g. two or three times a year), then don’t convert whatever leftover currency you have when you return.
Whenever you exchange money, you will lose some of the value on top of the exchange rate; that’s called the “spread”, the portion that the money changer keeps as a fee for their service. Repeatedly changing the money will amount to significant losses over time.
Instead, just keep any excess monies you have for your next trip. You’ll just need to convert less cash the next time around.
4. Don’t Just Compare Hotel Prices, Look at the Location as Well
There’s no point saving S$20 on hotel costs, only to spend S$40 having to repeatedly cab to and from your lodgings. Besides, long drives on the road take time out of your holiday, and can be fatiguing to children.
Check the maps, and plan where you’re going first. After that, make a list of hotels that are within an acceptable distance (about 15 minutes away). Pick the cheapest from this list, rather than picking the cheapest hotel in general.
5. Don’t Skip on Insurance Just Because it’s a Short Trip
Many Singaporeans will skip on the insurance, for trips to places like Johor. That’s not a good idea.
For starters, the premiums are extremely low – it can be as little as S$10 to S$15. The benefits, however, are more than worth it.
Travel insurance can cover the cost of evacuating you back to Singapore for treatment, emergency dental repairs due to accidents, and even for the cost of cancelled or delayed trips.
If you intend to drive your car, such as to Johor, ensure your insurance covers it. If your car breaks down and is undriveable, and there’s no insurance, you’ll be paying to have it towed across the causeway.
6. If the Exchange Rate is Favourable, Seize the Chance to Save on Some Groceries
If you’re going to a place like Batam, where essentials are cheaper due to the exchange rate, seize the opportunity to save on groceries.
On the last day of your trip, visit the local provision stores and supermarkets. Buy up everything that’s on your grocery list, so you don’t need to shop for it in Singapore.
Just make sure not to buy too much, as you don’t want to have to pay for extra luggage allowance (check the permissible limits with the relevant cruise or flight).
7. Buy Through a Credit Card with Overseas Spending Rewards
When buying something while overseas, see if you can use your credit card as a mode of payment. This is because credit cards often give bonus rewards on foreign spends, and even short getaways can be a good opportunity to rack up your rewards.
Depending on the credit card you use, you can look forward to more reward points, cashback or air miles. Decide what you want to save money on, and pick the corresponding card. (However, be sure not to overspend, and always pay back your credit card bill within the statement cycle.)
If you’re not sure which card to use, we recommend the Citi PremierMiles Visa Card, which gives you a cool 2 air miles per S$1 spent overseas. (For local spends, you’ll get 1.2 miles per dollar.)
You’ll also get complimentary travel insurance worth up to S$1 million, and 2 free airport lounge access per year.
But that’s not all. This card also comes with a generous welcome offer of up to 42,000 bonus miles, and S$100 worth of vouchers. For the speediest application in town, apply through SingSaver.com.sg and get an Instant Decision.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.