It’s tempting to book flights in advance for all the long weekends this year, but the risks involved can make you lose money.
A 2015 survey commissioned by Visa showed that Singaporeans travel more than the global average. We’re not surprised.
With our busy schedules, high-paced lifestyle and a general lack of escape options in our backyard, Singaporeans are obsessed with flying out of the country.
And, with only 11 public holidays each year, it’s no wonder we have made travelling on long weekends a national sport. (How fitting that we’re ranked 11th place among Asia Pacific countries for number of public holidays.)
Apparently, our need to get out of the country at the slightest whiff of a long weekend is so dire that budget carrier Jetstar was moved to create a Long Weekend Flight Package.
It’s exactly what it sounds like: for 1 package price of S$2,017, travellers can book their long weekend getaways (7 in total for 2017) to predetermined destinations in Asia and Australia. The programme is now sold out.
Kudos to Jetstar for their creative way of capturing consumer demand. We’re definitely not at all jealous that there are people out there smug in the knowledge they will be boarding no less than 14 flights this year.
With 5 long weekends in 2018 (10 if you count public holidays falling on Tuesdays and Thursdays), 2018 is sure to see the programme continuing. And in the highly competitive aviation industry, we won’t be surprised if other carriers jump on the luggage trolley with their own long weekend packages.
Before you stop reading to go see who you can Facebook stalk- erm friend, for first dibs, may we suggest some reasons why long weekend flight packages might not be such a good idea.
You May Miss Out on Local Festivals
Witnessing – or even better, taking part in – a local celebration is probably the best way to enjoy a country and it’s people. You’ll get to savour a unique experience, discover an aspect of your host city’s culture and history that you never knew before, and you might even build lifelong friendships.
If you plan your travel schedule strictly according to Singapore’s public holidays, you might miss out on festivals being celebrated in your holiday destination.
For example, if you decide to visit Taiwan during the Deepavali weekend (14 Oct to 18 Oct), you’ll have missed the Mid-Autumn Festival by a week.
In contrast to Singapore’s mooncakes and playground arson, Mid-Autumn in Taiwan is a much more congenial affair. The festival is celebrated with outdoors barbecue parties at scenic spots all over the country. It’s such an entrenched custom that the Taipei government even opens up the city’s riverside parks for the yearly celebrations.
To take part in a Taiwanese Mid-Autumn barbecue party is to feast on local delicacies like roasted wild boar fresh from the grill, hearty meat dumplings and savoury-sweet mooncakes, all washed down with ice-cold local beer as the moon hangs big and high in the cool autumn night. Now tell us that isn’t worth a few days’ leave.
You May Encounter Bad Weather
There’s always the chance that your long weekend trip might coincide with the monsoon season – or worse, typhoons – which will render your overseas trip moot.
Bad weather may cause your flight to be delayed or cancelled, which will create all sorts of logistical nightmares while doing nothing to lower your stress levels.
Even if you do make it to your destination without incident, seasonal torrential rains might force you to stay cooped up in your hotel room or the shopping malls. Looking to enjoy the rejuvenating powers of the great outdoors? Not during monsoon season you won’t.
This year, 2 long weekends (National Day and Hari Raya Haji) fall within the monsoon season. If your long weekend package happens to send you to monsoon-prone destinations then, you may not be getting the holiday you expected.
You May Have to Forego Your Flights and Lose Money
Booking your holidays a whole year ahead takes not only courage, but also the ability to see into the future. (A large bank account will also help.)
We don’t mean to be a downer here, but there is a chance that you may not be able to proceed with your flights as planned.
Something might crop up at work or at home that will clash with your pre-booked flights. You might encounter illness, retrenchment or a change in your circumstances that requires you to cut down your spending. Pandemics, domestic instability or terrorist threats might render your destination unsafe for tourists.
If you’re not able to adhere to your travel plans for whatever reason, you may be forced to forego the price of your ticket. Flights sold at discounted rates or during promotions usually carry stricter-than-usual restrictions, such as disallowing any changes to flight date, timing and passenger. Most flight tickets are also sold on a non-refundable basis.
Should your long weekend flight package come attached with such conditions, you will not be able to claim a refund if you’re unable to make your flight. This means you will waste money that could otherwise be put to better use.
Even if your carrier allows you to change your flight date or transfer your ticket to someone else, you will be subject to additional fees. You may even have to top up your ticket for a more expensive seat.
These charges are a standard practice of the industry, and you’ll have no choice but to pay them.
You May End Up Paying More
The risk of bad weather affecting your holiday, or giving up one or two trips may be acceptable to you. After all, you reckon that the savings made from booking a package deal will more than make up for it.
This mentality is problematic in many ways.
Firstly, as there is no way to predict which way flight prices will go, it is impossible to know if you are actually saving any money or not. In fact, some have analysed Jetstar’s offer and come away unmoved.
Secondly, by pre-booking your flights, you’re missing out on the chance to take advantage of flash deals or last-minute sales. When you inevitably hear of such offers from your friends, colleagues and hairdresser, you’ll have to swallow more than your fair share of buyer’s regret.
Thirdly, by committing to your flights, you are also committed to spending money for all the associated costs, such as hotel, food, shopping, entertainment and attractions, mobile data plan, car rentals, airport transfers, etc. Unless you have set aside a large enough travel budget, you may find yourself scrimping and saving just to fund your trips.
This is the classic, sunk-cost fallacy in action.
You’ve already spent a lump sum upfront, blocked out all your long weekends, and been branded a social pariah for missing the entire year’s weddings and family celebrations. You’re going to go on your holidays, come hell or high water.
You’ll gladly survive on plain bread for the next 2 weeks just to save up enough shopping money. You’ll insist on going for your holidays (and becoming uncontactable), even if it might cast you in an unfavourable light at work. You’ll refuse to change your plans, even if you’ll miss out on a road trip with your best buddies.
The bottom line is, flight packages that let you lock in all your long weekends for the year may look like a good deal. However, booking your flights far too early in advance carries significant risks; there are many things that could go wrong.
When trying to make the most of your long weekends this year, it might be worthwhile to exercise some caution. Otherwise, you might just end up paying a much higher price in the end.
Credit Cards Are Your Best Travel Companion
Whether you like the rush of booking all your holidays at one go, or prefer to meter them out, your credit cards will help you save money when you book your trip and while you’re overseas.
For starters, travel credit cards like the Citi PremierMiles Visa Card will reward you for your holidays through air miles earned on the dollar. You’ll be awarded 1.2 miles on local purchases and 2 miles for overseas transactions for every $1 spent.
This card also comes with another useful benefit: when you charge your full flight to your card, it gives you free travel insurance worth up to S$1 million. In the case of flight cancellations, delays or baggage loss, you can claim up to S$1,000, very handy should you run into problems during your trip.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.