Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Travelling is Cheap if you are

What would you do if you won the $12 million TOTO jackpot?

"Oh, I would have a big party, buy 2 nice condos, live in 1 and rent out the other, then I will go and travel the world!"

That's nice. But why can't you travel now?

"Travelling is EXPENSIVE. I can't afford to travel!"


Have you heard that kind of conversation before? Personally, I don't buy that sort of excuse, and the reason for that is simply because I have already done cheap travelling, so I believe that is is entirely possible to do so, if you are willing.

Going for expensive and lavish vacations and spending money is not a problem. It's easy. Here's $5k, go blow it in a week. Actually, I'm sure I could do it in a day. Going for a vacation on a budget, but still being comfortable and enjoying your trip is a skill. A skill that many people are lacking - and I believe it is just plainly due to the lack of practice, not the inability to learn such a "hard" skill.

Just take a look at the trips I've taken in the past few years and tell me if that is expensive to you.

Trip     Days       Trip Total Cost      Daily Average   
Hong Kong
Beijing / Seoul*
New Zealand
*I bought expensive tickets for this trip because my friends only confirmed at the last minute... which is why you should always book your stuff in advance!

Okay guys, in case it looks a bit confusing, the trip total cost is the cost of the ENTIRE trip, this means airfare, accommodations, local transportation, food and drinks and entertainment.

For atas airline travellers, maybe my entire cost is the same price as your airline ticket, haha!

The reason why I've put up the daily average cost is also to show people that the daily cost of going overseas doesn't have to be expensive, especially if you are being pragmatic.

Be pragmatic about flights

The area where I see people burn away the most amount of money is on airline tickets. Because they avoid certain carriers or exclusively only fly on certain ones, they are stuck having only pricier options when it comes to travelling.

Personally, I just sit on the plane, sleep, then walk out of the plane.

Then again, I know crazy people who can't take flights more than X number of hours, cannot make stopovers, have particular seat preferences, and are picking the airlines based on the FOOD (oh gawd, seriously?).

I like to frame it in a different way. You can take option 1 and have everything you want and pay $1400, or you can take option 2, have a 3 hour stopover and save $900.

That's freaking $300 an hour, but whatever. I mean, this is a personal finance blog about how to save money. Spending money takes no effort. Saving money requires skill and practice.

Be pragmatic about accommodations

Of course, if you're the type that needs MINIMUM 4 stars for your precious body to sleep, you are looking at daily accoms expenses of at least $100 per night (if you are travelling as a couple). Travelling solo with luxurious needs is obviously more expensive because of no economics of scale.

Personally, I don't believe in splurging $300 per night, only to be out of the hotel all day. It's just a place to store my belongings, take a shower and sleep for the night. What are you doing in your hotel all day? Having a photoshoot in your room or what? There should be a balance of location, convenience, creature comforts, price and value. Of course living in the city centre is going to be a bit more expensive, but transportation and nearby amenities will probably be more than worth those extra dollars if you can count the time saved from shorter commutes and the convenience of amenities. So, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to pick the cheapest option. I'm saying that you just be aware just exactly what you're paying for when you book an accommodation.

If you want to sleep in, use the hotel facilities and order room service, what can I say? Perhaps maybe there isn't a need to go overseas then, a staycay should be enough for you, and it would cost a fraction of an overseas trip.

Be pragmatic about timing

The biggest lesson I learnt about timing was when I was in Europe and I stayed in a hostel for - get this - $6 SGD a night. No Shit. It was lull season so there weren't much tourists visiting. Everything was cheap and everywhere had no queues. Apparently, in the summer, prices are 5 times more expensive. And I wasn't at some summer beach resort city. I was visiting a land-locked country which had attractions which were indifferent to the seasons.

Deciding to go to places because of a specific time can be a huge money saver. It could be an airline promotion. A drop in their currency. Just a general low tourist period. Anything that isn't running near full capacity will more than happy to drop prices to get people through the door. This isn't always the case, but it's rather common.

Personally, I love travelling during winter because I hate the heat in Singapore. Unsurprisingly, travelling in winter for most other people is uncomfortable and not fun, so I usually manage to snag good discounts purely because of the time that I choose to travel.

If you want to travel during long weekends and long holidays because that's the best and easiest time for you to rally travel companions together, guess what genius? It's the same for everybody else too! It's no surprise that these are the most expensive times to travel.

Do everything in advance

Book your tickets in advance.
Book your accomms in advance.
Book your activities in advance.

Not only do MANY MANY places reward you and give you a discount for booking in advance, some places REQUIRE you to book 3-7 days in advance for some activities. Booking in advance also ensures that you can go for your activities, rather than to be disappointed that it is unavailable because you were too late in confirming.

Also, booking in advance also helps you become more aware and observant about your whole trip in general. After making your booking, you might notice a competitor offering a deal which is even cheaper or better than what you booked. You can just cancel that booking and hop onto the better deal. However, if you don't start looking early, you can't spot what you are not even aware about!


Honestly, travelling comfortably and cheaply is not mutually exclusive.

Of course, if money isn't a problem for you and you shit gold coins, then fantastic, spend big time on your holidays and go for the royal treatment.

I don't know about you guys, but I actually enjoy fumbling around by myself, figuring out how to ride the metro, navigating by foot to different locations and eating local street food. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not ready to be taxi-ed around everywhere, walking on red carpets into high end stores and fine dining restaurants. That's not my idea of a vacation, but perhaps it is yours.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that as long as you have realistic expectations on your travel style and activities, and are pragmatic in your planning, travelling does not have to be an activity that only the rich can enjoy.

Let me know about your cheap trips or travel tips to save money!

1 comment:

  1. Can also try to make recoup cost from travelling, by buying stuff back to sell. Check out https://www.airfrov.com for ideas of what people would want from say Japan/Korea/USA etc. Some examples:

    For Japan, buy Tokyo Banana,
    For USA, maybe Kindle or ChromeCast

    Then just bring that back and sell it on Carousell


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