Going overseas this year end? Here are some tips for a hassle-free holiday

PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The holiday season is drawing near and you might be looking forward to taking a vacation overseas.

Whether that holiday turns out to be the dream trip of a lifetime can be decided by the smallest things.

For example, your excitement levels can take a plunge when your expensive moisturiser gets binned by airport security, or when you are stranded without Internet connection overseas.

Cast those nagging worries aside with these useful tips, from packing to travelling with children, for a hassle-free trip to round off the year.

WHAT CAN YOU PACK INTO HAND LUGGAGE?

About three in 10 confiscated items are water in disposable bottles. Personal items like hair spray, gels and toothpaste, as well as food products like kaya and canned food, for example, have also been surrendered. Photo: The Straits Times

Do you know what items you can put in your carry-on bag and what you should pack into your checked-in luggage?

There are many who make the mistake of not verifying what is not allowed on board planes.

Between January and September this year, travellers at Changi Airport had to surrender more than 142,000 prohibited items such as scissors and pepper spray canisters. Another 1.13 million items which were liquids, gels and aerosols such as perfumes and make-up that were not packed properly - or about 126,000 a month - were also confiscated.

Here is the lowdown on Singapore regulations so you do not add to these numbers.

All liquids, gels and aerosols in your hand luggage must be put in containers with a maximum capacity of 100ml each.

All containers (not exceeding one litre in total) must be placed in a transparent re-sealable plastic bag, which must be completely closed.

How about a container that is larger than 100ml but is partially filled? No, the maximum capacity for the container is 100ml.

Graphic: CAAS

PORTABLE POWER BANKS AND SPARE MOBILE PHONE BATTERIES

A flashing low-battery indicator on your mobile phone just as you are about to take photos at a scenic location can be a massive mood dampener. Therefore, one of the must-have items for travellers is a portable power bank.

However, did you know that these power banks, or any spare lithium batteries, have to be hand carried and cannot be checked in?

If a power bank is not stored or packed properly, it could cause a fire on board.

Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) rules state that lithium-ion batteries must not be checked in unless they are contained within personal devices such as laptop computers and mobile phones.

Also, only up to two spare lithium batteries for portable electronic devices (including power banks) are allowed, with each packed individually.

DO I NEED TO PAY GST FOR THE BAG I BOUGHT OVERSEAS?

Shoppers at the Shilla Duty Free shop at Changi Airport Terminal 1. Photo: The Straits Times

Travellers, including Singaporeans returning from abroad, need to pay GST on the total value of goods that exceeds the GST relief.

The magic figures are 150 and 600.

GST for goods valued below $150 is not applicable for travellers who are out of Singapore for less than 48 hours.

For those who are away for more than 48 hours, GST is exempt for goods valued up to $600.

In 2012 and 2013, there were 179 and 398 cases respectively where warnings or composition sums were issued to travellers who did not declare taxable goods.

What if you have already paid foreign sales tax when purchasing the item overseas?

GST is applicable for items imported into Singapore regardless of whether foreign sales tax was paid for the items overseas as they will be consumed in Singapore.

You can try shipping back goods separately, in which case a GST relief amount of up to $400 per shipment is granted. Where the value of the shipment exceeds $400, GST is payable on the total value of the shipment.

TRAVELLING WITH A TOT IN TOW

Travelling with young children is a great learning experience for them - but they may not be used to long haul travel.

1. Travelling by car

Plan for naps to be taken in the car and arrange for breaks during the journey so children can play and burn off energy, suggests Ms Vicky Ho, who heads research and development at Focus on the Family Singapore.

2. Travelling by plane

It can sometimes be difficult to get children to sit down and buckle up while flying. Preparing them for each step of the journey could ease the process. For instance, talk to them about placing luggage in the overhead compartment, says Mrs Cornelia Dahinten, a family coach and director of Conscious Parenting Singapore.

Besides taking along a new toy on the flight - not a noisy one that might disturb fellow passengers, you can also keep babies entertained by putting ice cubes in a cup and shaking it, she says.

3. Travelling by ship

Activities include getting your toddler to tie a ribbon around the doorknob of your cabin, says Ms Ho. This has the added advantage of making your door stand out from the rest so it is easier to locate. Using binoculars to take in the scenery also keeps youngsters entertained while on a ship. Just be sure to supervise their use, says Ms Ho.

GETTING CONNECTED ON THE GO

Data roaming can be prohibitively expensive, and even the smallest bit of overseas data use can result in a huge bill shock upon your return. However, there are ways to gain Internet access while overseas at affordable rates.

It ultimately boils down to two things: the telco you are on and whether you want to swop your SIM card, or whether you want to carry around an external Wi-Fi device.

1. Overseas pre-paid SIM card

The most obvious solution to data connectivity while travelling is to purchase a pre-paid SIM card from the country you're travelling in. These are available at most international airports or in town - or even at Changi Recommends, the travel concierge at Changi Airport.

They are either limited by data consumption, number of days, or both.

2. Opt for an overseas data service with a local telco

Service providers M1, Starhub and Singtel provide overseas data services at various rates depending on your needs. More information can be found here.

3. Rent a Wi-Fi router

If you don't mind carrying around another device, or are travelling in a group, an increasingly popular option is to rent a Wi-Fi router from Changi Airport, which you collect at the start of your trip and return when you come back.

This works best for large groups as the cost can be split among all travellers. Prices typically range between $12 and $25 per day, depending on the travel destination.


This article was first published on Nov 16, 2016.
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