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7 Tips To Save Your Sanity And Money On An Overseas Trip During School Holidays (For Both Parents And Non-Parents)

Be a smart traveler.


With the world’s strongest passport, travelling overseas is one popular pastime for many Singapore families.

For those eager to book annual leave and catch the next flight, you’re not alone. Numerous Singaporeans share the same enthusiasm, frequently heading to popular destinations like Japan, Thailand, and Korea. It’s not uncommon to encounter fellow Singaporeans even in these vast countries.

Whether you are a parent planning a family vacation or an individual driven by a pent-up travel bug, travelling during peak seasons, such as school holidays, can be exciting and challenging. To help you navigate this busy period, here are some tips to maintain your sanity and save money while enjoying your travels.

#1 Pick Less Popular Destinations And Travelling Times

The first unofficial rule of travelling on a budget is to pick tourists off-season. This is when fewer tourists travel, and prices tend to be more affordable. For instance, the low season for Thailand is July and August, when the monsoon rains make it less attractive to tourists. Almost every tourist destination would have a low season, so do your research to find out.

Instead of heading to your usual travel destinations, consider alternatives outside your comfort zone. If you are not fussy about the destination, one way of finding cheap tickets is to use this Google Flights hack.

On Google Flights, input your travelling period, but leave the destination country blank and search.

This would give you a map of common destinations with their lowest flight prices. You can then zoom in to specific regions you want to travel to. In this case, I may consider flying to Ho Chi Minh City, instead of Bangkok. Definitely, not Batam.

If you prefer to travel on a specific air alliance, you can filter the results by airline.

Note: You may need to use incognito mode if your Google Flights have pre-saved options that cannot be reset.

Read Also: 10 Popular Travel Destinations For Singaporeans And The Best Time To Book For Cheaper Flights

#2 Fit Your Luggage Into Cabin Size And Avoid Checked Luggage (AKA One Bag Travel)

News about luggage being stuck or lost (especially in Europe) horrifies anyone with the tiniest trepidation about travelling. While Changi Airport’s luggage handling has been able to keep up with increasing travel volume, other airports may not have the same stellar reputation.

If you can travel light, one bag travel can be a great way to save on checked luggage fees and allow you to zip past all the cranky travellers (and kids) waiting at the luggage carousel. Budget airlines charge an additional $25 to $50 for a single checked bag on a short-haul flight, and this can quickly add up.

For parents who have to wrangle with all the extra child-related luggage, keeping a cabin bag full of your child’s necessities (including that for the first day) at hand will go a long way, if and when there’s any baggage delay.

#3 Choose Your Seats (And Maybe Pay A Bit More For Peace)

If you, as a non-parent, find yourself still travelling during the school holidays, one way to travel with a little more peace is to pick the right seats on your flight.

Look for seats further away from the baby bassinets which tend to be located at the seats behind the gallery, toilets or another cabin (also known as bulkhead seats). These seats also tend to have extra legroom, which is usually desirable, but not when there’s a symphony of baby cries when you are trying to get some shut-eye.

Parents, on the other hand, should aim for these bulkhead seats (even if your child is older) so that there’s more space to wrangle a restless child.

Unfortunately, most airlines have eliminated free seat selection, so picking your choice of seats may incur extra costs. If you have a bit extra budget, consider getting a seat upgrade to a premium economy or higher.

#4 Order Your Meals In Advance And Prepare Snacks For The Flight

Whether you are a child or an adult, being hangry is not fun. Many cranky children may be appeased with snacks and irritable adults may feel calmer after a bite.

One trick to getting your airline meals quicker is to order the special meals in advance. Special meals (including vegetarian/ vegan options) are served before the regular meals. This can be a godsend when dealing with hangry children (and adults). Singapore Airlines offers baby meals, child meals (regular, Asian, and vegetarian options), and fruit platters, which may be suitable for children.

Even if you are an adult with no dietary restrictions, you can still choose from the list of special meals (such as Seafood Meals) to be served earlier in the flight.

For budget flights that do not serve complimentary meals, it may be worth preparing snacks (e.g. a few cookies or granola bars) for the flight or paying for the inflight meal to avoid a hunger-induced meltdown.

#5 Prepare (And Ask For Games) [For Parents]

As much as inflight entertainment has improved, not all flights (especially budget flights) will have programmes to entertain children. Parents can prepare and download their children’s favourite cartoons, shows, or movies.

Bring some portable toys onto the flight if you prefer to cut down on digital entertainment. This is not the time for the grab bag of Legos, but their favourite chou chou stuffed toy is worth bringing along. Some airlines, like Singapore Airlines, also have children’s activity packs or toys just for children.

#6 Bring Earplugs (Or Noise Cancelling Headphones) [For Non-Parents]

For non-parents, the essential travel item may be earplugs or noise-cancellation headphones. Travelling during the holiday season inevitably means that there are more children onboard. While children may be well-behaved, it only takes one child to cry incessantly to make your flight unpleasant.

Save your ear drums (and sanity) by bringing your own ear plugs, noise-cancelling earphones or headphones. If you forgot to pack them in a pinch, most full-service flights would provide a pair of earplugs upon request, or you can purchase them at the airport or from the inflight service.

#7 Fly On A Weekday & If Possible, At Odd Hours

Many of us are aware that popular flights, particularly those scheduled for weekends or Fridays, tend to be more expensive. If you’re travelling as a family, the cost can quickly add up. Paying an extra $100 to $200 per person for a flight can easily result in a total airfare cost of $1,000 or more.

Consider opting for less popular flight times to save money and have more funds to enjoy your trip. For example, instead of flying home on a Sunday, you might choose a Monday afternoon flight. Or you can start your holiday on a Thursday instead of Friday. This small change can lead to significant savings. As a family, this could easily save you a few hundred dollars, enough to cover the cost of the additional night in a hotel. This also gives you and your children extra time (and money) to enjoy your holiday.

The trade-off, however, is that you might need to take an extra day of leave from work. Despite this, the benefits of saving money and having more time for your vacation can outweigh the inconvenience.

Hopefully, these tips will improve your next overseas trip, especially if you travel during the peak holiday season. Bon voyage!

Travel Tips

As more countries move towards a cashless society, we can now visit countries with less physical cash required. Cashless transactions are not only safer and more convenient, but would allow us to enjoy more competitive exchange rates as compared to traditional moneychangers.

If you do not have a multi-currency account or wallet, you can register for YouTrip, and receive a S$5 welcome credit when you use the DollarsAndSense promo code “DNS5”). In addition to making payments in over 150 foreign currencies, YouTrip allows you to exchange and store up to 10 currencies in your wallet.

Another great option is the Revolut Card, where you can receive a bonus S$15 top-up to your account when you sign up using the DollarsAndSense link. It offers a choice of three tiers of its card, with the free standard tier allowing you to hold and send money in more than 30 currencies.

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