(Disclaimer: There are some of us who are already in a life stage where money spent on a holiday becomes secondary; either because of age, status, or an abundance of wealth such that extra costs become less of a concern but rather, a way of life. This post is not directed at you, and I can only hope there will come a time when I too can travel without bothering about little things like cost of travel)
Don't get me wrong.
I don't claim to be a travel whiz and that all who don't travel "my way" will feel my wrath. Everybody has their own preferred style of travelling; there is no right or wrong way about it. In fact, i'm probably guility of letting one of these "Dumb Habits" dictate my travels once in a while.
What IS certain, (regardless whether you're a travel foodie, luxury/ budget traveller or just travelling to pass the time) is the ultimate reason we travel; the experience.
With that, let me share 5 habits Singaporeans (and anyone who doesn't have stacks of money) should kick for a more "fruitful" travel experience.
1. Shopping for your "Friends/ Colleagues"
"Hmm, what should I buy for them? What do you think? Should I buy this or that?" It's YOUR holiday, worry about yourself.
Why on earth would your colleagues want; say a magnet or keychain from Finland if they've never been there? Like they would give a damm; it justs gives them an extra headache about where to chuck it so it doesn't seem rude.
(Now, I'm not against buying the local tidbits to share in your office and for your loved ones; that actually makes sense and happens to be nice thing to do. Buying for the sake of buying does not)
Unless it's for a good buddy or someone important, don't waste your time. Do your shopping at the DFS for tibits or whatever just before you fly off, it'll save you a whole lot of trouble; and useful cash.
2. Queuing At The "BEST" Money Changers
(Disclaimer: The above photos are not reflective of money changers at all times. It was taken by the MSM when Singaporeans queued for Ringgit. They are just a randomly googled photos to illustrate money changers in SG)
Planning on buying up the entire Prada store in Milan? Or perhaps it's time to pay for that 100,000 Euros Patek Philippe you've had your eye on; In Cash.
I've seen Singaporeans queue anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for the "Best" rates. Let me break it down so you now how redundent your "kiasu-ness" actually is.
(For overseas readers, Kiasu refers to the mentality of being "afraid to lose to others on a supposedly good deal")
Here's a rough comparison of 3 money changers in Singapore I randomly googled as of 28/9/15. Since Singaporeans love holidaying in Europe, we'll use Euros as a gauge.
The "Worst Rate" 1 SGD = 1.609
This would give you 621.5 Euros per 1000 SGD changed.
The "Mid Rate" (Out of these 3) 1 SGD = 1.605
The "Best Rate" 1 SGD = 1.603
This would give you 623.8 Euros per 1000 SGD changed.
So, the difference PER 1000 SGD between the "Best" and the "Worst" rate (623.8-621.5) would be 2.30 Euros. Let say you changed 3000 SGD worth into euros. For your trouble, you would have gotten an extra 6.9 Euros.
The truth is my fellow Singaporeans. If you really gave a damm about 6.90 Euros, you wouldn't be staying in 150 Euro hotels a night or feast on a 30 Euro dinner.
(Obviously, if you work in Raffles Place, get the rate in the Arcade; you would be dumb if you didn't. But if you work in Novena and you take a train down to the Arcade for a "better rate" you're an idiot)
3. Paying For Tours Online
Now, I don't wish to put down any particular tour company so I shall not put up a picture for this point.
When I mean "Tours" I'm referring to that "Safari Drive" in Kenya, the "Trekking Tour" in Nepal, or that "Great Barrier Reef Cruise" in Australia.
First, you lose out on the ridiculous exchange rate the banks charge when you pay online. Not to mention a credit card fee. (By ridiculous I mean it could be as bad as 500 basis point spread taken) If you're concerned enough to queue for insignificant rates at the money changer of your choice but yet get screwed by the banks on a terrible rate willingly, you give the term"moronic" a whole new meaning.
Next, from experience, you could probably bargain or ask around various tour operators if you choose to take up the package in the country itself. I paid 70 Euros for a 130 Euros "Desert Experience" in Morocco. You could find a "Safari" for a 100 USD a day in Kenya itself instead of paying the online rate of 200 USD a day.
Even if you paid the same amount as you saw online, at least you decide on your own exchange rate instead of letting your credit card company pull a fast one on you.
4. Pre Booking Your Accommodation
Yeah I know, you don't want to waste precious holiday time searching for accommodation. Worse, what IF there is NO place to stay? Jialat liao.
I can bet you one of my solid gold Rolex's that UNLESS there is an event/ public holiday or whatever going on at that very day, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find ZERO tourist accommodation as long as it exists. You'll NEVER have to sleep on the streets. (I don't know about Antartica though, never been there yet)
If it's your first time travelling to a country, how sure are you that you'll love, say Milan enough to spend the next 3 nights there? What if you run out of things to do by the first night? Are you really going to shop for Prada for the next two days?
Because Singaporeans are so KiaSi (scared to die), I suggest booking just for the first night (for a piece of mind) and the rest of the nights on a "as you enjoy basis". There has been many a time we have had a change of travel plans because a fellow traveller or local suggested we visit a place NOT in our itenerary. Because we NEVER pre-booked, we were able to enjoy this flexibility. Remember, reviews or guidebooks CAN'T advise you better than your own feelings AT THAT POINT OF TIME. Be flexible, be LESS Singaporean and you'll be grateful for it.
(Disclaimer: I always shortlist/screenshot say 3 different accommodations in that region before I arrive so I never have to panic or worry about wasting time looking for a place to stay)
5. Booking Airtickets WAY In Advance
You're not a guy planning how to lose his virginity before prom night. Surely there's no need to be so kan-chiong? (Over anxious)
I know of people who book their airtickets as far SIX months in advance. UNLESS there's a promotion by that airline, this is probably the silliest thing to do. I usually book my airtickets 8-10 weeks before I fly, this is when airtickets are usually the cheapest.
Book too early and the airline will treat you as a Kan-Chiong Spider, willing to pay stupid prices because you are afraid the prices rise in future, or become "sold out". Book too late and you obviously pay a premium.
So, If you've read this far, I'm pretty sure One Hundred Percent of you have fallen into AT LEAST ONE of the 5 points above. Don't get all angry and upset my "typical Singaporean friend", get over it.
Just remember there is no such thing as a big holiday (unless you're doing a sabbatical). It's just a holiday for goodness sake. Relax.
(I also recommend reading "Why Singaporeans Can't Afford A Vacation Every 3 Months")