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Your Essential Travel Checklist for 2023

Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong

Last updated 20 December, 2022

Travel demand came roaring back in 2022, and shows no signs of letting up in 2023. If you’re planning to hit the road in the new year, here’s how 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 this year, and the travel chaos we saw in Australia and Europe this summer made it feel like COVID never happened.

So what does 2023 hold in store? Here are some pointers I’d give to anyone planning their travels for the upcoming year.

Consider one-stop or repositioning flights to beat airfares

2022 saw airfares returning to pre-COVID highs (and higher, in some cases), and if you were hoping that 2023 might bring some respite, think again. American Express Global Business Travel forecasts that airfares will increase by as much as 12% on routes from Asia to Europe and 10% on routes from Asia to North America. 

This is driven by the general inflationary environment, including higher fuel costs and capacity restraints. With Russian airspace remaining closed to many airlines, flights between Asia and Europe are required to take longer, more inefficient routes, which pushes up operating costs even further.

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. 

Likewise, Singapore is sometimes a victim of its own success. Airlines know that the population has a sizable amount of disposable income and price their fares out of Changi accordingly. But if you’re willing to buy a ticket that originates in Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur (and a separate ticket to position yourself there), you’ll find that airfares tend to be much cheaper. Use the Explore feature on Google Flights to see how repositioning to elsewhere in the region can save on fares. 

If it’s any consolation, analysts believe that airfares will come down towards the middle of 2023 as China reopens and Chinese airlines bring additional capacity and competition to the market.

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.

Save on hotels by strategically buying points

Revenge travel has led to hotel occupancy roaring back to all-time highs, with rooms priced accordingly. In Singapore, hotel prices hit a 10-year high in September, and it’s a similar story at tourist hotspots elsewhere around the world.

One way to hack expensive hotel rates is to buy hotel points when they go on sale, then use the points to redeem a room instead of paying cash. This strategy paid off for me in March this year 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!

Buy your travel insurance early

While most countries have dropped their mandatory travel insurance requirements, it’s still a good idea to purchase 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. 

What you do get from buying early 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 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. 

Even if your plans change, certain travel insurance providers (but not all - read the wording carefully!) allow you to cancel your policy and get a full refund. 

For those who take more than three trips a year, it’s worth seeing whether an annual plan could help you save more money. The key benefit of annual plans, apart from price, is they ensure you’re covered for any pre-trip mishaps whenever they arise.

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.

Get an eSim-compatible phone

If you’re planning to treat yourself to a new phone this Christmas, be sure to get one with eSIM compatibility. eSIMs are a frequent flyer’s best friend since they offer greater convenience and better rates for roaming.

Instead of wasting precious vacation time hunting down a SIM card on arrival or having one delivered to you before you fly (not an option if you travel last minute!), buying an eSIM lets you enjoy connectivity from the moment you land. 

Some of my preferred eSIM providers include airalo, Holafly, and Nomad. Be sure to look out for limited-time deals as well, like Circles.Life Jetpac which offers 20GB for S$20, valid in 50+ countries, including popular destinations like Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the USA.

An eSIM can be designated for data, while your regular SIM card is used for voice calls and SMS. This allows you to continue receiving calls from home or OTPs as necessary.

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.

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.


As airlines add more flights, hotels hire back staff, and rental car companies scale up their fleets, travel in 2023 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 insurance early, be flexible about flight routings, look for opportunities to arbitrage expensive hotel rates with points, and pack the right cards, and you should be well placed to explore in the year ahead.

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Aaron founded The Milelion to teach people how to travel better for less, with credit cards, airline and hotel loyalty programmes. With 500,000 miles flown and counting, he’s keen to debunk the myth that you can’t travel in style without breaking the bank.