Travel demand came roaring back in 2022 and 2023, and shows no signs of letting up in 2024. If you’re planning to hit the road in the new year, here’s how having a solid travel essentials checklist can help you prepare yourself.
After a rocky 2020 and 2021, 2022 saw travel conditions return to normal for most of the world. The vast majority of countries have done away with mandatory testing, contact tracing and quarantine; some don’t even require visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 anymore!
It’s no wonder that everyone is making up for lost time. “Revenge travel” found its way into the lexicon over the last few years, and the travel chaos we saw in Australia and Europe this summer made it feel like COVID never happened.
So what does 2024 hold in store for travellers in Singapore? Here’s a list of pointers I’d give to anyone planning their travels abroad for the upcoming year, plus a handy list of the must-have things to bring overseas so you’ll remember to prepare and pack it into your luggage before leaving for your flight!
Table of contents
- Things to do before flying
- What Key Things to Bring Overseas for Your Trip
- Pack Your Bags with our Travel Essentials List!
Things to do before flying
1) Consider one-stop or repositioning flights to beat airfares
2022 and 2023 saw airfares returning to pre-COVID highs (and higher, in some cases), and if you were hoping that 2024 might bring some respite, think again. Global airfares are projected to rise between 3% to 7% in 2024 due to a variety of factors including high fuel costs, fleet changes, sustainability implementations, and global crises.
In the meantime, what can you do to offset the pain? One way to find cheaper flights is to look for one-stop itineraries instead of direct flights. It’s often cheaper to fly from Singapore to London via Abu Dhabi, Doha or Dubai, and the connection rarely adds more than a couple of hours to your travel time.
If you’re willing to buy a ticket originating in a nearby city (say, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur for Singapore residents), airfares might also be cheaper due to the relative purchasing power of the respective country. Use the Explore feature on Google Flights to see how repositioning to elsewhere in the region can save on fares.
2) Book award tickets early
Related to the previous point: if you’re planning to evade the pinch of high airfares by redeeming miles, good idea - but you’ll need to plan ahead. With aircraft flying fuller than ever, airlines are loathed to release many award seats. That said, you can still find them if you’re willing to book way in advance.
For example, consider a popular destination like Sydney. Trying to book two Business Class seats during March 2023 throws up mostly waitlist options, as well as the more expensive Advantage awards.
However, November 2023 has much more space, with at least two Business Class seats available for immediate confirmation on most days.
Singapore Airlines opens up award seats 355 days before departure, so for the best availability, that’s the time to look. If your plans subsequently change, you can always pay a US$25 fee to reschedule or a US$75 fee to refund your ticket.
3) Save on hotels by strategically buying points
One way to hack expensive revenge travel hotel rates is to buy hotel points when they go on sale, then use the points to redeem a room instead of paying cash. Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards, and World of Hyatt are just some of the major loyalty programmes with hotels across the globe. And membership is free! Plus, you can even sign up for sales notifications to receive exclusive promo codes and offers in your inbox. But be sure to comparison shop against cash rates, though, and never buy points speculatively - only when you need them.
This strategy paid off for me in March 2022 when I visited Indian Wells, California, to watch the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament.
Since it was tournament week, hotels had mostly been booked up, and the few remaining were asking ridiculous prices. Even a 3-Star property like the Homewood Suites was charging US$624 per night before taxes.
But the same room was available for 50,000 points per night, and Hilton was running a points sale with a 100% bonus, or 0.5 US cents per point. Even better, all Hilton Silver members and above (you can get complimentary Hilton Silver status with an AMEX KrisFlyer Ascend Card) enjoy the 5th night free on redemptions.
Therefore, I booked a 5-night stay for 200,000 points, which works out to an average rate of US$200 per night. That’s what I call a good deal!
The major loyalty programmes which sell points are Marriott Bonvoy, Hilton Honors, IHG One Rewards and World of Hyatt. Sign up for a free membership and look out in your inbox for sales notifications. Be sure to comparison shop against cash rates, and never buy points speculatively – only when you need them!
4) Buy your travel insurance early
While most countries have dropped their mandatory travel insurance requirements, it’s still a good idea to purchase travel insurance and coverage before you fly. Even if you’re fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, travel delays, lost luggage and overseas accidents remain as big a risk as they were before.
As a general rule, you should always buy travel insurance as soon as your plans firm up. It doesn’t cost you anything extra to do so - the price of travel insurance is the same whether you buy it a few months ahead or the day before you fly. Certain travel insurance providers (but not all) even allow full refunds if your trip plans change, for greater flexibility. Frequent globetrotters can also compare single trip VS annual travel insurance as the latter is often more value for money.
What you do get from buying travel insurance right after booking your key trip essentials is coverage for anything that happens during the pre-departure period. I learned this the hard way this year when I purchased travel insurance just a week before a trip to Japan…only to get COVID a few days later. Since the diagnosis was within a certain period of the purchase, the claim was denied (the principle being that you cannot claim travel insurance for pre-existing conditions). Had I bought the travel insurance when I booked my flights a few months back, this wouldn’t have been an issue.
5) Lock in forex rates for future travel with Revolut & YouTrip
The Singapore dollar reached all-time highs against currencies like the British Pound, Euro and Japanese Yen in 2022.
I’m no forex expert, but if you’re concerned that rates will move in the opposite direction in 2023, what you can do now is lock in the current rates with a Revolut or YouTrip card. These multi-currency wallets allow you to purchase currency today, then spend it in the future through your debit card with no further foreign currency transaction fees.
Of course, you’ll need to factor in the opportunity cost of the funds (since Revolut and YouTrip don’t pay interest), so don’t go overboard with your stocking up.
What Key Things to Bring Overseas for Your Trip
1) Bring the right cards
Last but not least, it might be a good idea to apply for a credit card that will give you the highest return (measured in miles per S$1, or mpd) on your overseas spending.
- UOB Visa Signature: 4 mpd on all foreign currency spending (min. S$1,000 spend per statement month, capped at S$2,000 per statement month)
- Standard Chartered Visa Infinite: 3 mpd on all foreign currency spending (min. S$1,000 spend per statement month)
- UOB PRVI Miles Card: 2.4 mpd on all foreign currency spending
- OCBC VOYAGE Card: 2.2 mpd on all foreign currency spending
You will typically pay a foreign currency transaction fee of around 3.25 - 3.5%, so be sure that the miles earned justify the expense incurred.
One alternative is to pair the Citi Rewards Mastercard with an Amaze Card. The Amaze converts all foreign currency transactions into Singapore dollars at a competitive rate, then charges the Citi Rewards Mastercard. Since this is processed as an online transaction, you’ll earn 4 mpd capped at S$1,000 per statement month, with no foreign currency transaction fees.
2) Sufficient cash
While cashless transactions are becoming increasingly commonplace around the world, not all destinations are fully cashless yet. Destinations like Taiwan, Thailand, and Japan still rely heavily on cash transactions even in major cities, so you should always carry enough cash to manage your expenses in such destinations.
3) Important travel documents
Be sure to pack essential travel documents like your passport, visa, hotel booking confirmations, nationally-issued ID, vaccination certifications, airline ticket confirmations, travel insurance documents, and a driver’s licence, where applicable. These are vital, especially in emergencies or at immigration checkpoints.
A camera is a must-have for capturing memories. Whether you're a professional photographer or just want to document your travels, a good camera can make all the difference. If you’re content to use your smartphone camera, look up good photo composition tips beforehand to ensure the perfect shot, or browse what other people are posting about that destination on social media for some inspo!
Whether for long flights or travel downtime, headphones are essential for entertainment or relaxation. Choose noise-cancelling ones for an enhanced experience, but do be careful about wearing them around your neck when you’re out and about – you don’t want to risk being the victim of a snatch-and-grab.
6) Travel adapter and charger
While many devices today usually require just a USB-A, USB-C, or Lightning cable to recharge, larger appliances such as hair straighteners or mini rice cookers may require a wall plug. However, different countries have different plug types, so having a universal travel adapter will help ensure that your devices are always charged and ready to use.
Pack essential toiletries, considering the length of your trip and the availability of these items at your destination. If you’re one bagging it or need to bring toiletries onto a plane with you, opt for solid bar soaps and other water-less options so you won’t get stopped at airport security.
If you’ve packed your soap and shampoo, don't forget sunscreen! It's essential for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays, especially in beach or mountain destinations. Moisturisers also ensure your skin is protected and hydrated in dry conditions – a boon for those cold winter travels.
Carry necessary medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs for common ailments. Some countries have legal regulations for certain prescription drugs, and you may require a certified doctor’s note to bring it through customs. For other drugs or controlled items, you may not be able to bring your own and will need to buy it on the ground instead, so be sure to plan ahead in case anything happens.
Pack wisely, considering the climate and activities planned. The basic categories are underwear, pyjamas, casual day clothes, swimwear, socks, and appropriate attire for nights out. If you’re travelling to a colder destination, remember to pack appropriate thermal wear or outerwear too. And if your accommodation has a washer or dryer, you can consider cutting down on the number of clothes you’re packing to help save space.
11) Different types of footwear
Choose footwear based on your activities – flip flops for beachwear, hiking boots for outdoor treks, sneakers or sandals for casual shoes, and dressier options like high-heels or dress boots for evenings.
12) Various accessories
Pack accessories like jewellery and sunglasses in a secure way to ensure they won’t get damaged during transit. However, do consider the safety of your destination before wearing expensive items. If you’re travelling to a destination that has some reputation for risk, you may want to keep your accessories to just the bare minimum.
Pack Your Bags with our Travel Essentials List!
As airlines add more flights, hotels hire back staff, and rental car companies scale up their fleets, international travel in 2024 should hopefully be a less chaotic affair than what we saw this year.
But it won’t happen all at once, so it still pays to be prepared. Buy your travel insurance early, be flexible about flight routings, look for opportunities to arbitrage expensive hotel rates with points, know what necessities to pack for your overseas trip and what crucial things you’ll need when travelling abroad, pack the right cards, and you should be well placed to explore in the year ahead.
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