Have a lot of travels lined up for you this year? Whether it’s for a vacation or business travel, there’s definitely plenty to look forward to when you head overseas. However, it’s undeniable that travel comes with its inconveniences and discomforts, from packing for the trip to adjusting to the jet lag to overcoming language barriers.
Here are seven hacks to help you overcome these, and to maximise what you get out of each overseas trip.
‘Automating’ your packing
Do you find yourself having to come up with a packing list each time you have an upcoming trip, or worse still, forgetting to pack some items when you’re overseas?
You can get rid of this problem altogether by coming up with a ‘default’ packing list stating all the standards items you’d need for a trip, including undergarments, clothes for going out, sleeping clothes, toiletries, medicine, and so forth. All you need to do is to whip this out whenever you need to get packing!
This makes packing a breeze and ensures that you remember to bring essential items. I like to store my list in the Reminder App on my iPhone, which allows me checkboxes as I go along with my packing, and ‘refresh’ the list (i.e. uncheck the boxes) each time I have a new trip.
Bringing items to help you get your shut-eye on flights
It can be tough to get quality sleep on long-haul flights, especially if you’re on Economy. However, there are items you can bring on board the plane that can make your journey better. My favourites are:
- Noise cancellation earphones: Quality noise cancellation earphones can remove the aircraft noise and even drown out the sounds of chatty passengers or babies crying on the plane – especially precious when you’re trying to catch some shut-eye.
- Sleeping mask: Are you all set to sleep, but can’t because they still have the lights on in the plane? All you need to do is put a sleeping mask on, and you’re free to drift off into your sleep.
- Travel pillows: You may not be able to get a full recline seat on Economy, but travel pillows can make your sleep more comfortable by allowing your head to rest comfortably while you’re seated upright. They also provide you with the much-needed neck support as your head nods around as you doze off.
Quickly recovering from jetlag
Crossing time zones can be a major shock to your body, and it may not always be possible to fully function as per normal when you touch down at your destination.
The best solutions I’ve found to quickly overcome jet lag is to, first, slowly adjust to the new time zone while I’m on the plane. I usually use the World Clock feature on the Clock App on iPhone to check on the time at my destination and try to keep awake during its daylight hours and sleep during its nighttime hours.
Second, if I am traveling to a destination with as 12-hour plus time difference, I will reset my body clock with the help of caffeine and melatonin.
Caffeine from coffee or tea will help me stay awake during the day. If I have trouble sleeping, I will take melatonin to help me get some sleep at night till I’m properly adjusted to the new time zone.
Overcoming language barriers with the help of translation apps
Can’t read or speak the local language at your destination? There are plenty of apps to help you along with this.
My go-to being Google Translate which not only translates foreign text entered into the text field but also translates spoken word or text found in images that you snapped using your phone. Conversing with a local or interpreting menus in a foreign language is now no longer a problem!
Avoiding scams on Taxi rides with ride-sharing apps
Unfortunately, as a tourist, you’re a vulnerable target for scams. It’s not uncommon to face problems negotiating with taxi drivers a fair rate for a ride or to be offered a metered rate, only to find that the meter was rigged.
Ridesharing apps like Uber or Grab can help you overcome that by guaranteeing you a standard, metered rate, not to mention help you overcome secondary problems like the trouble communicating with the driver the information about your destination in a foreign language.
If the country you’re going to does not have Uber or Grab, do check whether they have their own local ride-sharing app, and download it before you arrive (also don’t forget to get the promo code for first-time users).
Accumulating miles on the various flight networks and points with the various hotel loyalty programmes
Sign up for a frequent flyer card on all the major airline networks – Star Alliance, Oneworld, and SkyTeam – and ensure you enroll with an airline that has a scheme that makes sense for what you’re hoping to achieve with your miles.
If quickly reaching and maintaining Gold Status to gain access to the lounge and priority queue, and priority tags are important to you, you may want to try frequent flyer programmes such as the Asiana Club on the Star Alliance network which gives you the equivalent of the Star Alliance Gold Status (which is the Diamond Status in Asiana Club) with only 40,000 miles, and allows you to keep the status for two years. If accumulating miles to redeem for flights is your goal, you may want to consider being a member of an airline which allows you to collect miles from multiple streams apart from flights. Some credit cards, such as the DBS Altitude and UOB PRVI Miles Card, allows you to convert your spending to miles on frequent flyer programmes such as KrisFlyer or AsiaMiles.
This website has a useful comparison table on the miles required to reach each tier of membership in the various frequent flyer programmes, and the duration you can keep the status for.
Don’t forget to sign up for the hotel loyalty programme with the hotel group you’re staying at too – you can eventually redeem the points for free stays at a hotel under the hotel chain. If you’re staying at a Starwood Group Hotel (which includes Sheraton, Westin, Luxury Collection, Le Méridien, St. Regis and W properties), you can take advantage of the “Make a Green Choice” programme as well. Under the programme, you can earn 200-250 points(points differ based on location) or a $5 food and beverage credit for each night you opt out of housekeeping (you can alternate the days you have housekeeping so that your room remains clean).
Editor’s Note: If you’re booking your hotel on a third party website, do try to stick to booking from the same website. Loyalty can pay off – for instance, if you book five trips on booking.com, you will gain a “Genius” status where you will get an additional 10% off on hotels, and free travel perks such as late check-outs and free airport shuttles.
Maximising what you get from charging your overseas spending to your credit card
It may feel like a no-brainer to charge your spending to your credit card whenever you’re in need of cash overseas. However, are you maximising what you can get out of your card?
Do consider getting a credit card that rewards for overseas spending. There are cards that offer you miles for every dollar of overseas spend, zero foreign currency conversion fees, and other perks such as complimentary lounge access and travel insurance.
On some general tips when you use your credit card overseas:
- In general, unless your credit card does not charge a foreign currency conversion fee, it is better to pay using the foreign currency rather than your home currency, to avoid incurring double charges from conversion fees (banks convert the foreign currency to USD, then into SGD, which means you end up paying the conversion fee twice)
- Find out the perks that your credit card offers and utilise them! These perks may include complimentary lounge access, complimentary airport limousine service, and complimentary or discounted travel insurance plans.
- If you’re likely to use your credit card for big-ticket items such as your flight and hotel stay, do consider charging it to a credit card with a rewards scheme that suits your need. If you’re eyeing cash rebates, you can charge this spending to a credit card that has a generous rebates scheme. If you’re eyeing certain items in the bank’s rewards store, such as shopping vouchers or electronics, it may make sense to charge your spending to that bank’s credit card.
Have a question? Feel free to ask the Seedly Community!
Also, do check out our “Mother of All Article” where we compiled all the guides on personal finance:
Seedly Contributor: Charlene Ng
Charlene is a young professional working in Singapore and enjoys writing in her free time.
She hopes to share her experiences and lessons learnt as she navigates adult life to help others become more financially savvy.
Editor’s note: The above is a really insightful article by Charlene who is a part of our Seedly community. For readers who are interested in the lifestyle aspect of personal finance, check out Seedly’s content on Lifestyle!
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