Here's why escaping the country during CNY might not be as expensive as you think

Here's why escaping the country during CNY might not be as expensive as you think
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There are two main reasons why you'll want to get out of Singapore during Chinese New Year - either you want to avoid the awkward interactions with extended family members you don't even recognise, of you're not Chinese. Either way, you'll want to take advantage of the only four-day long weekend in 2016.

Four-day long weekend? That means…

If you haven't figured it out by now, and made plans to take advantage of it, that means you could technically enjoy a 9-day holiday with just 3 days of leave. Unless you work in a school, of course.

Just think - an overseas holiday that starts on the 6th, Saturday morning, lasting all the way till the 14th, Sunday night. That's almost half the month of February that you can spend on a relaxing getaway or an exciting adventure.

But wait, isn't travelling during Chinese New Year going to be really expensive?

Yes, it is true that this is one of several peak periods for travel. According to travel search engine KAYAK.sg, 49 per cent of their searches for February are for flights departing on the 5th or 6th of the month. This increased demand naturally resulted in higher airline ticket prices. However, here are three ways you can reduce the cost of your holiday.

1. If you're travelling within the region, find alternative departure and return dates

A trip to Bangkok from the 6th to the 14th of February will set you back at least $561 per person, last I checked. But then again, which Singaporean really needs to spend so long in Thailand?

Consider scheduling your flights on less popular dates. For example, if you travel from Thursday, 4th to Wednesday, 10th, you'll still use 3 days of leave but your airfare will only cost a significantly lower $272 per person. That's more than half the cost!

However, it'll probably be very tedious to search for multiple combinations of departure and arrival dates, even if you can save hundreds of dollars.

Fortunately, several airline websites out there allow you to indicate your preference for flexible dates, including Singapore Airlines and Qantas. But if you want to be spoilt for choice, sites like STA Travel and Kayak.sg include flexible dates among their search options.

2. If you're travelling within the region, try going off the beaten path

If you want to avoid the crowds that are sure to be about, how about choosing locations that are not among the popular tourist destinations this Chinese New Year?

Even if you don't feel too adventurous, you can visit several cities in Vietnam and Cambodia that are slowly growing in popularity among younger Singaporeans.

Flights from Singapore to cities like Da Nang in Central Vietnam and Vietnam's capital Hanoi are still relatively cheap, with prices below $500 per person. Flights to Phnom Penh are even cheaper, with some as low as $239 per person.

If you feel like visiting China during their month-long New Year celebrations, consider visiting Changsha, the capital of Hunan. Rich in historical and cultural attractions, it's arguably most famous for being the place where Mao Zedong grew up. Flights to Changsha cost about $532 per person during this period, which is relatively low.

3. No matter where you travel, consider using a credit card that maximises savings

Some credit cards offer free airport lounge access and other perks like limousine transfers to and from the airport. But the credit cards that you should be looking out for should give you significant savings when you travel.

For example, the ANZ Optimum Card gives you 5 per cent cashback for travel-related transactions including booking tickets via airline websites and online travel portals, or bookings made at travel agencies.

While there is no cap on the total cashback you can earn from the ANZ Optimum Card, do note that there is a maximum cashback rebate of $30 per transaction. That means that transactions above $600 won't earn extra cashback. So if you're buying tickets, you might want to buy them individually in order to maximise your cashback earning with the ANZ Optimum Card. You can apply here for the ANZ Optimum Card.

Alternatively, if you don't like cashback and want to accumulate miles instead, consider the Citi PremierMiles Visa card which gives you up to 6 miles per $1 spent on Expedia.com, and up to 10 miles per $1 spent on Kaligo.com.

With this card, you normally earn 1.2 miles per $1 spent locally, and 2 miles per $1 spent overseas in foreign currencies. In addition, you're also eligible for discounts with specific hotels, as well as discounts when you rent a car from Avis and Hertz. You can apply here for the Citi PremierMiles Visa card.

However, if you're travelling to Australia or New Zealand, it definitely makes sense to book with the ANZ Travel Visa Signature card. Not only does it boast the highest base earning rate of 1.4 air miles with every $1 spent locally, but you can earn 2.8 air miles per S$1 spend for direct flight bookings with Qantas and Jetstar, as well as with all retail spend in Australia and New Zealand.

Do note, however, that this 2.8 miles rate is capped at 14,000 miles per month. You can apply here for the ANZ Travel Visa Signature card.

Plus, with the value of the Australian dollar almost equal to the Singaporean dollar, it definitely makes sense to spend overseas with this card. Even with the additional currency conversion fees (which can come up to about 4 per cent), 2.8 miles per $1 is a pretty unbeatable deal.

MoneySmart.sg is Singapore’s leading personal finance portal, and aims to help people maximise their money with powerful tools and engaging content.

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