The Christmas season brings to mind wintry scenes and happy families, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and presents under the tree.
Well, except if you're in Singapore. Here, Christmas-time means it's time to clear leave and escape on that end-of-year overseas trip.
The only problem is that going on an extended overseas trip costs money. Sure, you might have just received your bonus, but it's probably not a good idea to spend it all on a whirlwind sightseeing bonanza that will have you returning more exhausted than when you left.
Here are three tips for a fun end-of-year overseas holiday that won't have you cursing your boss for not giving you a better increment:
Don't be too ambitious and try to cover too many destinations
For some Singaporeans, the December break is the longest holiday they get to take all year. They finally have a chance to use all that leave they've accumulated, the kids are out of school, and thanks to Christmas and the New Year they get two free days on which they don't need to use their annual leave.
So many people's response is to try to squeeze as much as they can in the little time they have. Going on a two-week trip to Europe? Great, let's try to squeeze in London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Milan, Amsterdam, Berlin et al. The result is that you not only end up exhausted from having to move on to another destination every 2 days, but you also spend a ton of cash on plane, train and bus tickets. Oh well, at least you'll have thousands of photos to #latergram.
The slower you travel, the less you spend, so don't be too ambitious. It might be your first time in Europe/the US/South America/wherever, but being too kiasu often means you get little more than the satisfaction of ticking destinations off your list, without truly getting to experience much of each place.
Focus on quality over quantity when planning a trip
What makes an overseas vacation great isn't how many monuments you've taken photos of, but how much you enjoyed your stay and connected with the place. That often involves finding favourite restaurants, talking to locals and obtaining a certain degree of familiarity with a new environment.
When you are planning your trip, focus on quality interactions and allow yourself to take it slow. You'll find you not only spend less, but also look back upon your trip with fonder memories.
For instance, recently I spent close to two weeks in Bangkok. Although I had been there numerous times before, I usually stayed no more than 3-4 days, heading to the same few spots like Chatuchak each time. I ended up liking the city a lot more than I had on whirlwind trips, discovering new places and revisiting old favourites.
Try to get under the skin of whichever destinations you're visiting and you'll naturally find that you have less of a desire to bite off more than you can chew. You'll naturally end up whittling down your itinerary to just a few choice destinations.
Don't feel like you have to travel far to have a good time
So your Facebook feed is constantly clogged with pictures of your friends' exotic trips to Peru, Iceland or wherever. Now that you finally get to take 2 weeks of leave at one shot, you feel like you have to one-up them, but the only places nobody has been to seem to be Antarctica and other planets.
Seriously guys, just because everyone else is fine with spending $10,000 on their year-end vacations doesn't mean you have to.
There are many affordable and cool destinations in the Southeast Asian region, so if you're really on a budget, explore those first.
You will have the chance to go to New York or Paris one day, but if it's not within your budget right now, that's okay. Two weeks exploring Northern Thailand or taking the train down the length of Vietnam can be an experience that's just as unforgettable, at a fraction of the price.
The article first appeared on MoneySmart.
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