Budget Travel: Our Trip to Asia and Some Tips on Not Going Overboard on Your Vacation

budget travel
Gardens by the Bay -Singapore

Planning for a vacation can be an exciting yet stressful experience. As we try to budget travel expenses, it can feel as though our heads are about to explode.

With enough time to plan, however, you can alleviate some of the stress that goes along with pre-vacation jitters. It’s a vacation, there are naturally some things you are going to want to splurge on, but there is no need to go all out all the time and return home with an empty wallet. Here’s our latest travel story.

Last October 2017, my wife and I traveled together to Asia. We planned this vacation for almost a year, and when we finally found what we thought was a great deal, we went for it. It was a very nice two-week vacation in The Philippines and Singapore.

The airfare to The Philippines cost us only $1250 a round trip for two via Asiana Airlines with a stopover in Incheon, South Korea.

Our first stop was in The Philippines. Prior to our flight we already booked a 3-night stay at the Hyatt Hotel City of Dreams for $128/night. We picked this hotel for the convenience. The Hyatt was only a 10-minute drive from the Philippine Airport. City of Dreams Manila has three 5-star hotels (including Hyatt) all connected from each other by casinos. It’s an entertainment hub in Manila.

After three days we moved to The Conrad Hotel which is only a stone-throw away from the Hyatt and only a few steps away to The Mall of Asia. It’s another 5-star hotel in the same vicinity.

Both hotels are magnificent, have great food and their services are really 5-star. We had a great time at both hotels. I forgot to mention that The Conrad Hotel costs us $136 per night. We’ve also gone to other places around the metro and provinces.

All in all, it was a wonderful experience.

Then off to Singapore. Now, this is a tour package of four nights and five days, and that includes flights, hotels and city tours. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, Clarke Quay. Aside from the room, which is pretty small, everything else at this hotel is good. Clean, nice staff and great proximity to almost all of the tourist attractions all around Singapore. We had such a wonderful time in Singapore that we can confidently say that we are surely going back there in the distant future.

budget travel Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands = Singapore

We spent a total of approximately $3900 for this trip, and that includes everything. One of our biggest expenses were our restaurant bills as we ate at a few expensive places in both countries. Money well spent in our opinion.

If you’re planning a trip, make sure that you plan ahead. We booked everything online and we did not encounter any issues.

Here is a helpful guide for determining when to save and when to splurge, so you don’t go overboard on your budget travel vacation.

When to save:

Food: Budget travel also involves meals. Not every meal has to be fit for a king. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort or cruise, food isn’t really an issue.

While nothing beats the all you can eat buffets, not every vacation can be all-inclusive.

When it comes to your meals, planning ahead is one of the best things you can do. Research the area before you go, look for popular hot spots with the locals. Restaurants geared towards tourist are always more expensive, and not always better than the local favorites. Planning ahead allows you to look at the menu and gauge the price range before you walk into the lobby and are starving for anything.

If you’re staying near a grocery store, consider grabbing some easy to make meals for breakfast and lunch. There’s nothing wrong with a quick sandwich, especially when every other meal leaves you stuffed.

When you do decide to have a fancy meal, limit the extras. You may be starving when you arrive, but after the salads, appetizers, bread, and sides, that surf and turf isn’t looking as easy to put down anymore.

If you’re traveling with others, discuss payment options before you go to avoid awkwardness when the check arrives. Setting aside a specific budget for food, having everyone chip in beforehand, and leaving one person in charge of the food budget is an easy way to relax and not stress about the bill all week.

Transportation: When it comes to flights unless you’re flying first class (and if that’s the case, this article probably isn’t for you), they are all pretty dreadful. While it may seem like a good idea to upgrade to the few extra inches of legroom at the time, after the third or fourth hour into your nap, you won’t know the difference.

Flights can range dramatically in price and are marginally different in quality. Besides, the trip isn’t about the flight; it’s about the destination. Opt for the cheapest flight you can find within your timeframe. With iPads and iPhones (or if you’re one of the lucky few who can fall asleep easily on a plane) there is no need to book a flight on an aircraft with all the extra “perks.” Download a few movies to your iPad, and you’ll be there in no time.

Believe it or not, the only time I’ve had issues with flights was when I booked with the more expensive airlines, not the budget carriers.

Before you take off on your budget travel vacation, make sure to weigh your options for transportation once you have arrived. Renting a taxi or taking an Uber every time you’d like to leave can add up, but it is sometimes the only option. Motor scooters are a fun and cheap option, but not everyone is comfortable using them and can be hazardous if you’re inexperienced (or had a few too many at the bar). Weigh your options beforehand and do your research, so you aren’t left with the most expensive option when you land.

budget travel Conrad Hotel Manila
The Conrad Hotel Lobby – Manila

When to splurge:

Living Accommodations: A good hotel or resort can make all the difference. When you’re not out and about exploring, you’re at the resort. While it may seem like a good idea to go for the cheapest motel in the area (you’ll be out and about anyway, right???), when your luggage goes missing, the A/C breaks, and a larger than life cockroach makes its way into your bathroom, you’ll be left frantically trying to find a vacancy at a nearby hotel, one you should have been staying at from the beginning.

That doesn’t mean you have to go for the most expensive resort in the area, but saving a bit more and splurging a bit on the accommodations during your budget travel plans is almost always worth it.

Great hotels and resorts can act as your guide in this uncharted area, offering recommendations to local restaurants and can’t miss destinations. Try booking your trip during a less busy month, many well-known resorts and hotels offer deep discounts during the “non-tourist” months.

Keeping an eye on discount sites like Trivago, Expedia and Hotels.com can let you know if a place you’ve had your eye on is offering a discount as well.

Activities: Vacation activities are the memories you make that will last a lifetime. While you don’t always have to spend a fortune on these fun activities, make sure to leave room in your budget for a few.

Shop around and find a reputable company that offers the activities you are looking for. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book ahead; sometimes it’s a better idea to wait until you’re there to do so. Read forums and blogs about the location or cruise you’ll be on and see what others suggest.

Don’t overbook yourself, however, as fun as they look on paper, crunching three excursions into an afternoon might not be the best idea when you’re exhausted and want to nap. Most are non-refundable. Check with your hotel or resort; some places offer group discounts when you book with them.

Planning your budget travel plans don’t have to be stressful. A little pre-planning can go a long way. It’s much easier to sit back and relax when you know you’ve budgeted for what’s ahead.

BA in Accountancy, he entered the entrepreneurial world by starting his first online marketing business in 2004. He is passionate about personal finance, self-development, the stock market, and a digital marketing addict. He strongly believes that financial knowledge combined with self-discipline is the key to achieving financial freedom.  He is also an avid golfer and a 15 handicapper.

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