Do you know any Singaporean who saved up for years just to go on that one trip of their dreams? Er, me neither. Singaporeans go on holiday so often and so spontaneously you never know when they’re around.
In fact, a recent report found that 2 in 5 Singaporeans book trips at the last minute—defined as 4 weeks or less before the departure date.
But booking at the last minute doesn’t necessarily have to mean you end up paying tons of money for expensive air tickets—well, so long as you don’t try to do it over a public holiday.
In fact, because there are so many flight options these days, both budget and full-service, it’s totally possible to go on a spontaneous budget holiday. Here are four tips that will keep your last-minute trip as cheap as possible.
Pay attention to the time of your flight
Comparing flight prices has never been so easy with aggregators like Kayak and Skyscanner. But before you click on the cheapest flight, pay attention to the time you’ll be taking off and landing. You might be surprised to find that it’s sometimes more worthwhile to just pay another $40 for a more expensive flight.
That’s because the cheapest flights often come with the most awkward of departure times. If you have to depart from Changi Airport at 7am, that means you’ll have to arrive at 5:30am when public transport isn’t in service yet, so factor in your Grab/Uber fare into the ticket price.
If you arrive at your destination at 9pm, you’ll essentially be paying for one extra night of accommodation. It might be better to simply take a morning flight the next day even if it’s more expensive.
Be flexible with your dates and destinations
Often, we don’t really have a particular destination we achingly want to visit—we just want to go on a weekend getaway, and that’s that. As the average Singaporean went on 5.2 overseas holidays last year, it’s hard to argue that all of these trips were to dream destinations.
That means that most of the time we’re free to play with dates and destinations in order to get a good price.
So if you want to go on a resort weekend getaway next month and find that tickets to Bali are too expensive, consider changing your destination to Phuket, Krabi or Tioman.
The same goes with dates. Sometimes, for no rhyme or reason, tickets can cost twice as much on on a certain weekend than the other weekends in the month. If you don’t absolutely have to travel on a certain date, play around with dates until you can find the best destination-date combination. You may find that a Saturday to Monday trip costs less than a Friday to Sunday one, for instance.
Bring along snacks, a water bottle and other survival essentials
I’m a firm believer in always bringing along some easy-to-carry snacks when you travel. They can save you from having to drop cash on overpriced food in many situations.
Unlike Changi Airport, most airports are terrible when it comes to the food on offer. Unless you want to get stuck paying twice the amount locals would usually pay for crappy food from some chain restaurant, you’ll want to plan ahead if you envision getting stuck at an airport for more than an hour or two.
Other situations where you might need to line your stomach with some food include being stuck on a train or bus in between cities and being lost in a new city, surrounded only by tourist trap restaurants serving bad food. Having snacks on hand will save you from having to eat immediately due to hunger. As a bonus, if you’re travelling with a companion, a bag of almonds or Tao Kae Noi can prevent one of you from getting hangry.
A water bottle and, if you’re travelling during rainy season, an umbrella or poncho, are also a must.
Figure out how to get to and from the airport ahead of time
You might have booked your flight at the last minute. But refrain from waiting till you’ve reached the airport at your destination before you start figuring out how to get to your accommodation.
Most Singaporeans jump into a taxi or a Grab/Uber once they hit Changi Airport with their luggage in tow. But overseas, and especially if you’re on a budget, that may not always be the best option. Airports can sometimes be further away from the cities they serve than Changi Airport is from Jurong West, and when a taxi ride could potentially cost you upwards of 100 SGD, you definitely want to do your research ahead of time.
For example, if you’re travelling to Bangkok, it might be tempting to jump into a cab or tuk tuk, since these travel options are known to be inexpensive. But solo travellers might be pleased to know that there’s an Airport Rail Link which takes you to downtown Bangkok a fraction of the cost.
In a similar vein, if you’re travelling to Melbourne, instead of shelling out $60 on a taxi to the city centre from Tullamarine Airport, solo travellers should book a seat on the Starbus or Skybus, which will cost about one third the price.
This story first appeared on Moneysmart, 15th May 2017.