Here's how you can find the best deals at NATAS Travel Fair 2017

Here's how you can find the best deals at NATAS Travel Fair 2017
Visitors thronging the various booths during a National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) Travel Fair held at the Singapore Expo.
PHOTO: NATAS

Between the 2017 NATAS Travel Fair from 17 to 19 Feb, and Travel Revolution barely a week later (24 to 26 Feb), travel-loving Singaporeans are in for a treat.

Both fairs will collectively feature the industry's biggest names, along with boutique agencies, cultural associations, and national tourism offices.

You'll have an easy time planning your vacations for 2017.

But that's true only if you go prepared, as any battle-hardened veteran will tell you.

With a dizzying array of promotions, discounts and deals on offer, free samples from F&B vendors, brochures and flyers being pressed into your hands from all directions, and bodies… just bodies packed shoulder-to-shoulder and shuffling along everywhere you turn, navigating a travel fair in Singapore can prove to be pretty daunting.

If you're going to spend your precious weekend braving the crowds, you might as well make sure you come out of it with a good deal.

To that end, here are some tips to help you find the best deals at NATAS Travel Fair and Travel Revolution weekends.

Decide on a Plan Beforehand

Photo: Pixabay

Sure, the best thing about having all the major players under one roof is the price war that is sure to erupt.

But that doesn't mean you should enter the exhibition hall without a plan in mind.

Before setting off for the fair, spend some time coming up a shortlist of destinations for your vacation.

Of course, you should pick places and durations according to the budget you have set aside. For each holiday you've planned, list no more than 2 destinations.

Then when you get to the fair, focus only on the deals revolving around the destinations on your shortlist.

Ignore everything else that's not related. Why?

Because you'll need to do a lot of comparison shopping, so you can't afford wasting limited mental resources thinking about a package that may ultimately prove unsuitable.

You want to avoid decision fatigue, which puts you at risk of spending more money than you mean.

Make a Circuit and Get Some Quotes

Although you may think it's ideal to ferret out the lowest possible price for maximum savings, the cheapest option may not always be the best one.

In travel, the cheapest rates are not always worth it. Sure, that 2 am flight might have the lowest fare, but it may cost you in terms of convenience, or make you spend more on cab fares or an extra night at the hotel.

Follow the general press of the crowd and you'll be able to gauge where the popular deals are.

You should definitely pay attention to the spots where people seem to be stuck browsing, but you don't have to feel pressured to follow every queue or wade through every knot.

Because word travels fast in a crowded exhibition hall, you can allay any fears of missing out on some super secret deal happening in that other corner.

So 3 (or so) quotes for each destination you are interested in will be all that you need.

Gathering and comparing the quotes tell you 2 things: what to expect from your chosen destination, and how much you should pay.

Photo: Pixabay

Don't Forget the NTOs

Make the effort to visit the booths of the national tourist offices (NTOs) of the places you'll be vacationing in.

You'll want to find out information about your destination such as transportation networks, food and dining options, wait times at attractions etc.

This is especially helpful if you're planning on booking a package tour for a city you have never been to before.

Travel agencies sometimes oversell popular attractions with glitzy photos and glib descriptions, so it helps to find out a more realistic picture.

For instance, you may be dead set on visiting the old town of Jiufen, charmed by the idea of quietly sipping fine tea while looking out over picturesque valleys.

You'll gladly endure the 90-min commute to and fro, but you may be unprepared for the noisy busloads of tourists now poking their selfie sticks into your field of vision.

If you had chatted with a Taiwanese representative and mentioned your aversion to crowds, you might have found out that Maokong - which offer equally breathtaking views but is much less crowded - might prove to be a better choice for you.

(You'll also re-discover your childhood love for cable cars - the preferred way up Maokong. Opt for the glass-bottomed cars for the ultimate thrill.)

Take a Break and Mull Over Your Options

Once you've gathered up the necessary brochures and gotten a general feel of the popular offers, you may feel like that's the right time to commit to a package. But don't do it just yet.

Chances are, of the offers you already have in hand, you've been staring at some more than the others. This is a natural habit that we all indulge as we wait in line for a freebie, or for the crowd to get moving again.

This means that you're likely missing out on all the fine print, and you could end up signing on a package that you might later regret.

Instead, retreat to a quiet(er) corner, or leave the exhibition hall for a cafe or F&B outlet. Take the chance to have a drink or a snack, and slowly, methodically go through the brochures you have selected.

Remember how we said to take only 3 brochures for each destination you want to visit, and to limit yourself to 2 destinations for every holiday you've planned?

If you managed to stick to that guideline, you'll now find yourself with a manageable pile of brochures that you won't have too much trouble going through.

Photo: The Straits Times

Make Your Choice and Sign Up

Now that you've gotten away from the crowded exhibition hall, and had a moment to collect your thoughts over some food and drink, it's probably a better time for you to make your decision.

Go through all the offers you collected, keeping in mind what you found out from your intended destinations from the NTOs. You should be able to clearly see which choice gives you best chance of a satisfying holiday.

Once you've picked the most appropriate option - one that's most closely matched to your budget and preferences - it's time to dive back in.

Make your way to the booth offering your selected travel package, and ask the representatives to go through it with you in detail - this is to make sure you don't miss out any important details.

Then, indicate to them that you are strongly keen on signing up, and ask if there's anything they can do to sweeten the deal.

We're not asking you to be a cheapskate, and neither are we saying go be a demanding bully to all those poor overworked sales reps.

We're just saying it never hurts to ask a 5-word question because you never know what might come up. Most importantly, ask nicely.

From a travel agency's standpoint, a travel fair is an opportunity to drive their sales volume up.

This means that their salesforce is in the mood to close deals.

Chances are high that you'll be able to walk away with not just the ideal package, but also some cool freebies in tow.

Unlock Rewards With the Right Credit Cards

When paying for your trip and accommodations, using the right travel credit cards can make your trip more rewarding.

If you happen to own the ANZ Optimum World MasterCard Credit Card, and have selected the Travel category for enhanced rewards this quarter, you can earn 5 per cent cashback on your spend.

Prefer air miles? Then the ANZ Travel Visa Signature card - with an earn rate of 1.4 miles per S$1 spent locally, and 2.8 miles for transactions in Australia and New Zealand - may be ideal.

Another option is the Citi PremierMiles Visa Card, which gives you 1.2 miles per S$1 spent locally, and 2 miles for overseas transactions.

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