We all know the little things we can do to cut costs abroad – like pack your lunch from the buffet breakfast spread, fly budget airline carriers and stay in hostels. But do these measures always need to be so drastic? Even though the economy remains a little wobbly in some parts, travel dreams of a certain standard are still desired because destinations like Europe, the United States and Asia offer a magical escape from the everyday grind. It’s on these breaks that people like to feel indulged and relaxed. So just how does one travel comfortably to unique destinations, without blowing the budget?
1. Pack and prepare smartly
These days, airlines are becoming increasingly stringent on luggage weight. If you are just two kilos over the limit, expect to pay pricey excess baggage fees. To avoid this, when packing for your trip abroad, identify how many days you will be gone for and be selective with the outfits packed for each of the days using interchangeable items. For example, select 1-2 pairs of shoes that will work with all of your outfits. Another great way to cut costs is to buy all the flight or travel accessories you need – like inflatable neck pillows, eye masks and ear plugs – at budget stores like Singapore’s Japan-owned Daiso store where everything costs a couple of dollars. The worst thing you could do is purchase these items at airport stores which offer costly alternatives. Tip: When planning your daily outfits, use your phone camera and take photos of what you have planned to wear each day so that you don’t have to waste time thinking about that when you’re on holiday.
2. Avoid the hostels, opt for boutique hotels instead
One of the immediate and easy ways to cut costs is on accommodation. When travelling abroad on tight funds, students and youth often go straight for hostels which can cost as little as a couple of dollars a night. While this is an extreme cost-cutting measure, if you’ve ‘been there, done that’ during your younger days, chances are you’d prefer not to spend your holiday sleeping in bunk beds again. Boutique hotels or B&Bs offer incredible value for money over their expensive chain hotel counterparts which can go for anywhere around the S$500 per night mark. Boutique hotels are often located in streets filled with character and designed with a quirkier look and feel, which makes the accommodation experience comfortable and more memorable. Tip: Have a look at great options like Mini Hotel, Hong Kong, Hotel Graphy, Tokyo and The Alcove, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh).
Mini Hotel, Hong Kong The Alcove, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh)
3. Know the sights you want to see, in advance
In the lead up to your holiday, research the sights you would like to see and the places you would like to shop at or visit. You can opt for a mix of free entry and paid sights, and for the latter, it is highly recommended to book the entry tickets online and in advance which can save you the hassle of queuing in the ticket line when you arrive at the destination, and often a percentage off the retail price. Similarly, if you know you will be visiting certain shops while abroad, check their website to see if they have any discount vouchers or coupons that can be used in-store. Designer factory outlets often provide a voucher booklet if you spend two minutes signing up to their newsletter. Another great way to save is to be aware of any credit card promotions for the sights or stores you are visiting, as you can often get a rebate or money off if you use the venue’s preferred merchant. Tip: If you’d prefer not to receive a retailer’s updates, unsubscribe from any websites or newsletters after your holiday so that you still receive the perks while you’re away.
Suggested free sight: Hyde Park Suggested discounted sight: Guinness Brewery Tour
4. Find the local markets for a cultural experience and a nice lunch on the go
Instead of grabbing extra food from the hotel’s breakfast buffet, which may not be as fresh or appealing come lunch time, why not find where the best farmers’ market is? Produce sold is all locally sourced, and in places like the USA and Europe, you can grab everything from homemade bread to local cheeses and freshly picked fruit and veggies. Because these stalls are usually family-run businesses who are trying to gain a presence, the bang for your buck is greater than you would find in an established café or restaurant. Once you have collected your local produce, find a nice well-known park or sit on the steps out the front of a museum for a picnic in the sunshine. A lunch like this not only saves you a pretty penny, but it also immerses you into the local culture, providing an authentic and delicious experience. Tip: Markets like these are also great places to pick up tasty pre-packaged souvenirs for friends and family back home.
Cours Saleya, Nice, France Union Square Farmers Market, New York
5. Check out ZUJI Exclusives for hand-picked, one-of-a-kind packaged holidays
Try booking via sites like the new ZUJI Exclusives platform which is a website providing travel deals that have been exclusively sourced and not available elsewhere in the market. The beauty of this site is not only the breadth of choice when it comes to destinations, but the value that travellers are able to get for the budget they have set aside. In addition to accommodation, depending on the package, travellers can also score spa treatments, complimentary meals and airport transfers to name a few. A great added benefit of the platform is the 21-day no-questions-asked money back guarantee. In the instance the booker has a change of mind with the product, they can receive a complete refund within three weeks after their purchase. While another great perk is ZUJI Exclusive’s lowest price guarantee. In fact, if a traveller finds the same deal for a cheaper price, ZUJI will give theirs away for free. Tip: Be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so that you get first dibs on the latest offers. As they are one-of-a-kind deals, they may get snapped up quickly.
6. Heading to Asia? Wear your bargaining hat!
Places like Bangkok and Bali are a haven for bazaars including Chatuchak and Badung Market that stock unique local arts, crafts and jewellery. With a lot of these handiworks made by the sellers, they tend to be quite flexible with pricing. This also means that holiday makers can grab stunning souvenirs relatively cheaply. One thing to be wary of is that these stall owners have learnt to spot a tourist from a mile away, and commonly increase their prices up to three times the actual amount, to leverage travellers’ savings. To avoid getting ripped off, don’t be afraid to counter offer their prices on the items you are interested in buying. You can even propose one single price for all the souvenirs you’d like to get, which can work out to be a better deal. Tip: If the market stall owner isn’t budging on your suggested offers, say that you cannot go any higher and try walking away slowly. Nine times out of ten, they will call back and accept your proposed amount.
Chatuchak Market, Bangkok Badung Market, Bali
7. Step away from the main drag and into the backstreets
A common mistake while travelling is to get so caught up in the main tourist drags that you miss seeing the real side of a city that the locals know and love. While the popular areas of a location – like Barcelona’s Las Ramblas or London’s Oxford Street – can be buzzing with energy and interesting sights, they are also filled with over-priced food stalls, poorly-made knick-knacks and a number of pick-pockets targeting tourists. When you travel, definitely visit the destination’s main street to soak up the vibe, but always remember to veer off to the side so that you don’t miss exploring the narrower and quieter avenues away from the hustle. You’ll not only lessen the chance of an unwanted hand finding its way into your bag and taking your wallet, but you will also be surprised to find quaint (and more affordable) stores and cafes, which are sights in their own right. Tip: Find a nice place to grab a coffee and people-watch. Aside from the drink, casually watching those around you is a free but great way to soak in the culture and pick up some interesting local customs.