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Earlier this month, the DollarsAndSense team went for our first company retreat! Here’s the lowdown on all the apps and tools we used from start to end.
Choosing A Destination: Skyscannner, Trip.com
Our team retreat came with a rough budget in mind. Nothing too fancy, nothing too expensive but also not too near such that it wouldn’t feel like a real getaway (i.e. no Bintan, no Batam and certainly no JB).
To decide on the destination for our first ever team retreat, we decided to use Skyscanner, a well-known travel search aggregator, to help us make our decision. Here’s how we used Skyscanner to shortlist a few destinations.
We selected “Everywhere” as the destination for the dates that we decided on, so that we could get a quick overview of the estimated prices for the plane tickets to those countries. The prices were then listed from cheapest to most expensive, with plane tickets with cheaper prices obviously flying to nearby countries in Southeast Asia.
From this initial list, our team collectively decided on Vietnam (over an alternative like Thailand) because the few of us that have been there before really like the country’s Vietnamese coffee, culture and cheap food. Clicking into Vietnam, we then saw an overview of the different cities we could fly into, again listed from cheapest to most expensive.
We were indifferent between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, both offering direct flights, but we ultimately went with Ho Chi Minh City as it was a cheaper option, which would be more value for money considering that we would be going for less than 5 days.
After selecting our flight itinerary based on the most comfortable flight timings, Skyscanner showed a list of providers we could choose to book from. We chose to book through Trip.com as it had the best prices available for our itinerary through a single booking and also had many 5-star reviews. Trip.com is a part of the Ctrip Group, providing one-stop travel booking services for travellers.
Through Trip.com, we completed our booking by filling in the passenger details and also selected the option to add-on luggage to our flight booking.
Booking Our Accommodation: Hotels.com
To book our accommodation, we used a few sites such as Hotels.com and Booking.com to compare options and prices Hotels.com. We decided against booking through vacation rental sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, rather choosing hotels instead as we wanted an accommodation with amenities (such as a gym and swimming pool) and good service provided (such as daily housekeeping and the assistance of the front desk).
We ultimately used Hotels.com to book our hotel. Hotels.com allowed us to compare the prices of properties in Ho Chi Minh, select the number of rooms and number of persons in each room. Finding an accommodation that had rooms with a common area to provide us space to hold a few team meetings we had lined up proved to be difficult. However, we chanced upon Citadines Regency Saigon, which had Club Rooms with a living and dining room, that checked the box for this special requirement of ours.
To pay for the plane tickets and accommodation, we tried to use the best credit card we had available, which was one of our team members’ DBS Altitude credit card that gave 3 miles per dollar for online flight and hotel transactions (capped at S$5,000 per month).
Buying Wifi For Our Collective Use: Changi Recommends
Wifi is one of the most essential items to purchase when going for any overseas trip. For our team retreat, we decided to purchase the Wifi router from Changi Recommends. Our rental of 5 days would have cost us $25, an affordable option considering that up to 4 people could use the router and the data was unlimited. We even managed to find a promo code that gave us 2 days free. We ended up paying just $15 for the Changi Recommends Wifi Router.
However, we also had team members that didn’t want to be beholden to having to stick together (or rather, stick to the person holding onto the Wifi). They decided to purchase their own roaming plans from their Telco providers, with both of them paying almost double the price of what I paid for the Changi Recommends Wifi Router.
The Wifi Router worked excellently for us on the team retreat. Not only was our Wifi generally reliable and fast, the router’s battery surprisingly lasted the entire day, every day from 7am to 6pm.
Transportation From The Airport: Klook
With 5 people and 5 luggages, we figured it would be a more affordable option to book a minivan through Klook rather than to book two separate Grab taxis when we arrive (which we were not sure if it would be affordable). By pre-booking our transportation through Klook, at least there would be the assurance that there would be a vehicle ready to pick our group up at the airport when we reach, rain or shine.
The day before our flight, I received a message from the transport provider asking me for details such as my group size and number of luggage we had. After touching down, this transport provider easily contactable through WhatsApp, frequently checking on my group’s progress – if we touched down and whether we were exiting the arrival hall. The Klook sign was easy to find, and despite the downpour that greeted us in Ho Chi Minh when we arrived, the minivan was there to bring us to our accommodation.
Making Plans For The Team: Klook
While we didn’t want to pack our itinerary, we wanted to make the most of our time in Ho Chi Minh and get the most out of what the city had to offer.
For this, we used Klook (again) to search for tours and attractions that would suit our needs. Klook had various tours available, ranging from half-day tour, to full-day tour and tours that span a few days.
We chose a full-day tour to the Mekong Delta as well as a half-day tour to Cu Chi Tunnels, which cost us just under $23 and $16 per person respectively. We saved some money on the tours by choosing to meet at the pickup location rather than getting picked up at our accommodation. Both the tours were generally well organised, in comfortable 40-seater buses, with tour guides that spoke fluent English. For the price we paid, we found these tours to be a very good deal.
The best deal we bought on Klook was the Saigon Skydeck in Bitexco Financial Tower Admission Ticket with World Of Heineken Tour Combo. The Saigon Skydeck offered a wonderful panoramic view of Ho Chi Minh city and the World Of Heineken tour was great for beer-lovers. Not only did we learn about the making of beer (complete with a VR experience), we also enjoyed glasses of cold beer inside Ho Chi Minh City’s tallest building. To top it off, we each brought home a Heineken beer customised with our name!
Getting Around Ho Chi Minh: Grab
Like any other Singaporean, our team uses Grab frequently here in Singapore. When we were in Ho Chi Minh, we were almost completely reliant on Grab for all our transportation needs around the city. It was easy to use, a straightforward process to plot our location and set the destination. This allowed us to get around easily without having to face language barriers with the cab drivers.
However, as the time required for some drivers to reach our location was sometimes more than 10 minutes, we decided to download other ride-sharing options such as FastGo as well, to provide us the option of having a transportation alternative.
To our delight, GrabFood was also available in Ho Chi Minh. We made multiple orders, including Jollibee fried chicken, McDonalds and local dishes such as pho and Banh Mi. It was as easy as using GrabFood in Singapore, with the only challenge being understanding the Vietnamese menu. But that’s a problem that can easily be solved with Google Translate.
The only gripe with using Grab overseas would be that it would have been perfect if the payment wallet was connected across the various countries Grab was in. For example, the money in my Grabpay wallet couldn’t be used in Ho Chi Minh and my Grab reward points were not accumulated as well, feeling more like two separate Grab accounts.
That’s how our first company retreat went, let’s see where we head to next year!
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