Travel

Love running marathons? Ditch the beach this year and take a run'cation instead

Image: ST

The last few kilometres of a marathon are often a blur of pain and even the final few hundred metres can feel like forever to an exhausted runner.

Running into a stadium filled with some 50,000 spectators cheering one on, though? That might give a person the much-needed push to the finish line.

Such a hero's reception greeted Ms Jeanette Wang, 35, in April this year, when she participated in the Pyongyang Marathon.

Taking place once a year, usually in April, it is a popular race in the marathon holidays market because it combines a visit to closely- guarded North Korea with a run that starts and finishes in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Stadium.

Ms Wang, who is senior digital content manager in an investment firm, says: "For those few hours of that race, I felt like an Olympic athlete."

Everything else on the trip was as much of a highlight, as the tour itinerary saw her visit one of the most popular malls there, have drinks at a local bar and visit the demilitarised zone, or DMZ. "It was a chance to observe this closed nation with my own eyes," she says.

Other than Pyongyang, she has run marathons in cities such as Perth in Australia, Boston and San Francisco in the United States and Queenstown in New Zealand.

Image: 123rf

Travel experts say this trend has picked up steam in the last few years, in tandem with the burgeoning running scene here.

The 2XU Compression Run here has grown from 9,000 participants in 2011 to 30,000 participants in its edition in April this year. Meanwhile, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon has grown from 6,000 runners in its first edition in 2002 to an average of about 50,000 runners a year in recent years.

Mr Geoff Meyer, 48, managing director of Ironman Asia, which organises the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, says running is one of the most popular sports here and he has seen Singaporeans travelling "more and more for run-cations" in recent years.

Image: Pexels

Travel agency Flight Centre Singapore started promoting marathon holiday packages in 2015.

A spokesman says bookings for these packages have doubled since the trips went on the market.

At least three other local tour companies have started offering marathon holiday packages in recent years too.

Usually, agencies help settle pre-race logistics such as race registration, accommodation and transport. Where they differ is in the marathon destinations and types.

Some offer trips to the six World Marathon Majors - in the cities of New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, London and Tokyo.

 

Local sports tour agency Athletes' Journey organises tours to four out of the six World Marathon Majors, as well as to non-standard marathons, such as the Thunder Dragon Marathon in Bhutan, which allows runners to take in the natural scenery and run past iconic landmarks.

Athletes' Journey co-founder David Tay, 58, says he usually organises sell-out tours to the Marathon Majors held in Tokyo, Berlin and London. The agency will be adding more sports tours next year.

Local travel agency Travel Wander, which was set up last August, started offering "running holidays" this year, which its co-founder Sheryl Lim, 40, says are "soft adventures".

 

Internationally, various governments are tapping marathons to boost tourism, says Ms Alicia Seah, 53, travel agency Dynasty Travel's director of marketing communications.

Since 2014, Dynasty Travel has been the exclusive travel agent for the Korea Tourism Organisation to promote four of South Korea's marathons - held in Seoul, Gyeongju, Chuncheon and Jeju.

Since last year, the agency has also been working with the Macao Government Tourism Office to organise marathon packages.

This year, Dynasty Travel also launched a package to coincide with the Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Australia.

Ms Seah says that friends and family members of runners are starting to tag along for such trips for "family bonding and friendship building".

 

Five marathon holiday destinations

ATHENS CLASSIC MARATHON IN GREECE

Image: 123rf

This marathon is steeped in history because it is based on the ancient tale of a military courier's fateful run to Athens, the capital of Greece. According to legend, the messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the town of Marathon to Athens in 490BC to announce the news that the Greeks had defeated the Persian invaders. He then collapsed and died. This marathon's course covers the same ground that he ran and ends in Athens' Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games was held in 1896.

After the marathon, runners can stay in the capital for sightseeing or treat themselves to a Greek island getaway.

Local tour agency Travel Wander has packages to this marathon.

 

PETRA DESERT MARATHON IN JORDAN

Image: FlightCentre

Set in the ancient city of Petra, a Unesco World Heritage Site, this marathon offers stunning views across a desert landscape.

Runners will be able to see mountainside carvings, incredible rock formations, caves and historic tombs.

At one point, the route goes uphill to a mountain ridge for a 5km stretch. At the height of this ascent, runners will get a view of the race route.

After the marathon, runners can extend their trip to explore Jordan, do a Bible land tour or take a dip in the Dead Sea.

Tour agency Flight Centre Singapore offers packages to this marathon.

 

GREAT WALL MARATHON IN CHINA

Image: 123rf

Rough paths, sloping trails and 5,000 gruelling steps up and down the Great Wall make this race one of the world's most challenging. Adding to the difficulty are uneven steps. Some are tiny and some are so high, you have to jump.

Thankfully, there are less arduous stretches that pass through villages, fields and farmland.

The run begins and ends in Tianjin province, at the Yin and Yang Square at the fortress at the Huangyaguan section of the Great Wall.

Tour agency Flight Centre Singapore offers packages to this marathon.

 

THUNDER DRAGON MARATHON IN BHUTAN

Image: 123rf

Participating in this marathon is the perfect way to enter the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and rub shoulders with the happiest people on earth.

The high-altitude route takes in the beautiful Paro Valley and iconic landmarks such as the spectacular Tiger's Nest monastery perched on a cliff edge.

The race begins and ends at Zhiwa Ling, a luxury hotel in Bhutan.

After the race, runners can continue with their guided tours to soak in the country's unspoilt beauty. Local sports tour agency Athletes' Journey organises packages to this marathon.

 

VICTORIA FALLS MARATHON IN ZIMBABWE

Victoria Falls Marathon

Combining breathtaking scenery with adventure, this route winds along the mighty Zambezi river, across bridges with spectacular views of Victoria Falls, and goes into Zambezi National Park, where runners may be able to see wildlife such as zebras and elephants. Post marathon, runners can explore Victoria Falls, which is known as the adventure centre of Africa. Travel packages can include rafting, game viewing, safaris and bungee jumping.

 

Article first published on StraitsTimes

Keep calm and fly on: How to survive that long-haul budget flight without losing your mind

Budget carrier Norwegian will launch direct flights between London's Gatwick Airport and Singapore from Sept 29.

Despite some earlier failures, long-haul budget carriers are making a comeback.

Singapore too, has its very own Scoot, a Singapore Airlines subsidiary.

It is all very exciting for price-sensitive travellers,but while sitting in a no-frills plane for two or three hours may not be a big deal for many, a 10-hour flight can be a totally different experience.

Here are some survival tips for long-haul budget flying.

 

1. Don't get overly excited with low fares

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With all-in fares of just under $200 for a London-Singapore ticket which is what Norwegian is offering to launch the new route, it's easy to get excited and quickly confirm the booking. But remember: When flying budget carriers, the fare usually gets you just a seat and nothing more.

That may be fine for a short flight on a short trip, but on long-haul flights which usually also means a longer trip, you would need to carry more things. With limits on how much weight you can carry by hand, you are likely to have to check in at least one bag. You will also need to eat and drink - none of which is offered as part of the fare.

And if you want to sit with family or friends, you also want to book your seats in advance. All these extras come at a cost which is less if the bookings are done in advance. Last-minute bookings at the check-in counter will cost significantly more.

You can of course try to sumggle food and drinks on board, but with the exception of Jetstar, many airlines do not allow this. While some cabin crew may let you off, there is a risk of embarrassment if caught and told off.

If you still refuse to pay for food and drinks, eat a big meal before taking off. A pack of mints can also help to mitigate thirst or the discomfort of a dry mouth during a long flight.

 

2. Be prepared

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The longer you are in a plane, the chillier it gets. Unlike full-service airlines that provide blankets, budget carriers do not. So it is important to prepare for the cold, for example, with your own blanket, sweater and socks.

Cabin air is dry so it is a good idea to also bring a lip balm and moisturiser. The airline is not going to give you an amenity kit.

To be comfortable, it is also a good idea to bring a back pillow. This provides relief for the lower back and is probably more valuable than a neck pillow.

 

READ MORE: Long-haul flights don't have to be disastrous for your skin – not with these handy tips! and 6 things that are every budget traveller's must-haves.

 

3. Stay sane

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Boredom is the worst thing that can happen to anyone on a long flight, unless you are one of those really lucky people who can sleep on such flights without having to twist and turn every few minutes or drift in and out of sleep which can be worse than just staying awake.

So unless you plan to engage in conversations with the cabin crew or other fellow travellers, come prepared to entertain yourself.

If you love to read, bring a good book, magazine or other reading materials. A crossword puzzle or two is not a bad idea either. Or maybe some board or card games if you're travelling with family or friends. Be mindful though that others around you may not be too thrilled if the game gets too exciting.

Before bringing laptops and other electronic devices, check that they are all fully charged. Make sure you download whatever you need to, before the flight.

Also check if the airline offers Wi-Fi on board, for how much and decide if it is a price worth paying.

 

4. Be realistic

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Delays can happen anytime, anywhere. When flying budget carriers - whether short or long haul - remember that if there are delays for whatever reasons, the airlines are not obliged to feed you or put you up in hotels. It says so in the contract when you book your ticket - not that many people bother to read it.

So while many travellers demand the services as their right, the truth is that when budget carriers go the extra mile, they are really just being nice and doing it out of goodwill.

If you are flying budget because you are on a budget, it is a good idea to carry some snacks with you - not for eating during the flight but to curb hunger pangs while on the ground, should there be any problem.

And remember to always buy travel insurance.

 

This story was originally published in The Straits Times, May 3, 2017. 

READ MORE: In-flight essentials to keep germ-free and healthy on long haul flights! and How to survive a long haul flight on a budget airline​.

6 things that are every budget traveller's must-haves

Image: Jennifer Huls / 123RF Stock Photo

Everyone has that friend who severely overpacks on every overseas vacation and is often spotted lugging around a gigantic suitcase and multiple carry-on bags carrying an entire wardrobe full of clothes and accessories, multiple mobile and computing devices and travel-themed products like packing cubes and bulky passport wallets.

While travelling light is usually the way to go if you’re holidaying on a budget (no need to pay for cabs to transport your huge luggage, no fear of paying luggage fees to your airline), that doesn’t mean you can just rock up at the airport with your wallet, iPod and nothing else. Here are six things to take on any budget vacation that can actually save you money.

Water bottle

Singapore may be full of 7-11s where you can quench your thirst for less than a dollar, but the same can’t be said of many other travel destinations—not only that they don’t have cheap water, but also that 7-11 doesn’t exist, and if you don’t know your way around you could find yourself dying of thirst, or paying for yet another overpriced mojito.

A refillable water bottle is essential when you travel. In some destinations like Italy you can take advantage of free drinking fountains everywhere, while those staying in guesthouses in Thailand or Cambodia can avail themselves of the water dispensers at their accommodation.

Snacks

It happens all too often. You’ve been walking under the unforgiving sun for 4 hours in a climate that’s even hotter than Singapore’s, or trudging under the rain in a freezing winter hell, and you’re starving.

You’re surrounded by tourist traps where they would gladly charge you a million dollars for a plate of spaghetti if you looked like you could afford it, and common sense tells you not to go in but you’re just too bloody hungry.

Always carrying a few snacks with you resolves that problem instantly. A bag of Tao Kae Noi goes a long way and can fuel you till you find more reasonable eateries.

Insect repellant

Those travelling anywhere cold need not bother, but if you’re headed to an area that’s experiencing summer or, worse, is hot and humid like Singapore, come prepared with bug spray.

At Southeast Asian destinations like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos or Indonesia, swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes emerge at night and, in some of these places, can spread not only dengue but malaria.

You might be enjoying that beer at the rooftop bar in Bangkok or chowing down on some late night Khmer hot pot, but once the mosquitoes attack in full force, your night is ruined. Many of the cheap bug sprays you’ll see sold at counters in Southeast Asia don’t really work. Bring your own to be safe.

Smartphone and charger

While we’re not encouraging you to morph into one of those Singaporeans obsessed with finding wifi everywhere they go, mobile phones have evolved to the point where bringing one with you on holiday can actually be very useful.

Download offline maps of the places you’re visiting on Google Maps and you no longer have to panic if you can’t find free maps at the airport. You don’t need to lug around a heavy Lonely Planet either, as you can save the offline version of online travel guides from sites like Wikitravel on your phone using Pocket.

Quick dry towel

If you’re travelling on a budget, you might be staying at low end hotels, guesthouses or hostels where towels and toiletries aren’t provided. If you’re thinking of splurging on one travel-related purchase but don’t want to buy a wifi-powered torchlight or other silly gadget, a quick drying towel is a great choice.

These things are much more compact than regular towels and can be folded into a fairly small rectangle (your towel is often the item that takes up the most space in your luggage). Most importantly though, it can dry in a matter of hours or even minutes, so you don’t have to worry about where to put a soggy towel before moving on to your next destination.

Travel insurance

If you’re thinking of skipping town without travel insurance, think again. You might not need to use your travel insurance 9 times out of 10, but the one time you do use it you’ll be glad you bought it all those other times.

Other than the usual benefit of having your medical expenses covered one the go and when you get back to Singapore, there are other perks, too. Having your luggage delayed by just one day can net you a payout of several hundred dollars. A delayed flight could mean a hotel stay instead of sleeping on the airport floor.

Choosing a travel insurance plan doesn’t have to be rocket science, but don’t just buy the airline’s travel insurance either (here’s why). MoneySmart’s travel insurance wizard can point you in the right direction and remove the need to do thesis-worthy research.

Want more travel tips? Read our story on 15 hacks for hassle-free travel and 4 tips to packing light for your next getaway! For more travel stories, check out our lifestyle section.

MoneySmart.sg is Singapore's leading personal finance portal that helps you to maximize your money. Like us on Facebook to keep up to date with our latest news and articles. Compare and shop for the best deals on LoansInsurance and Credit Cards on our site now!

5 scenic holiday places to add to your bucket list this year

1. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Best for a road trip with snap-happy buddies, Salar de Uyuni in southwest Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat, with the reflective sheen of its surface making it look like the world’s largest “mirror” to boot.

Fun fact: It was once part of a prehistoric salt lake, Lago Minchin, which has since evaporated into the wide white wilderness you see now. Prepare your Coca-Cola bottles and dinosaur figurines for a quirky #flatlay because the extraordinary flatness of the landscape is the perfect backdrop for lots of imaginative optical illusion fun! Wander across the vast landscape of glistening white salt, rock formations and cacti and if you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of flamingos and camel-like vicuña in the vicinity.

Image: I-Ting Chan

 

2. The Sacred Valley, Peru

Visiting Machu Picchu for an alternative romantic getaway? You don’t want to miss the scenic ruins at The Sacred Valley either. Situated in the Peruvian Andes near Cusco, this valley was the central hub of the pre-Columbian Inca civilisation. Today, the archaeological hotspot remains a major agricultural site thanks to fertile soil and a generous water supply.

While you’re in the valley, do visit the Maras salt pools and the Moray concentric circles. The latter is particularly interesting – it’s an ingeniously designed ancient greenhouse with each tier boasting a slightly different temperature. And yes, the view is as pristine and breathtaking as you would expect.

Image: I-Ting Chan

3. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

If you’re looking to surprise your parents with an overnight cruise for their next wedding anniversary without breaking the bank, check out the picturesque Ha Long Bay! A surprisingly underrated UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s also been christened one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the glorious scenery makes for the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of our urbane lifestyle. Bonus: Some of the cruises offer cool on-board activities such as night squid fishing. Or skip the big ships and brave the elements in a kayak to discover hidden grottos and caves.

 

4. Mount Rinjani, Indonesia

Tired of being glued to the screen all day every day? Plan an adventure away with your office girlfriends the next long weekend. Mount Rinjani owns the distinction for being the second highest volcano in Indonesia and among the most active in the world, but training for the physically demanding two-day journey would be worth your while – the view supposedly rivals that of the vistas seen in The Lord of the Rings films. Now, I’m no J.R.R. Tolkien fan myself, but even I think it looks otherworldly in the most spectacular fashion possible. Oh, one more thing. The volcano is also situated in Lombok, so you might just manage to squeeze in some downtime on the beach before facing the drudgery of work come Monday.

Image: @carriemakii

 

5. Mayfield Lavender Farm, United Kingdom

Planning a vacation to the UK now that the pound has plunged post-Brexit?  Accessible by public transport and located less than 15 miles from Central London is the family-run Mayfield Lavender Farm. The relaxing scent of the purple fields will do wonders to calm your nerves and get you into the holiday spirit. “Scent-sations” aside, you’ll also get to enjoy lavender scones and ice-cream, and browse for souvenir-friendly trinkets in the form of home fragrances and body products. Blooming season begins at the end of June until late August, so it’s best to start planning, stat.

 

Want to start local instead? Read our story on surprisingly unexplored places in Singapore to get in touch with nature! For more adventures, check out our travel section.

Tips on how to travel safely

Travel emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. This sombre reality of modern travel has been accentuated, again, by the multiple terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere during the Ramadan holy month. The Islamic State (ISIS) took credit for the unrelenting violence.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 when al Qaeda crashed passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States, other major acts of terror have included a car bomb in Bali (2002), hostage-taking by Chechen fighters in Moscow's Dubrovka Theatre (2003), a 60-hour siege by Pakistani militants in Mumbai (2008), gunfire and suicide bombing in Paris (2015 and 2016).

France, the world's most visited country, remained on terrorist alert during the Euro 2016 football championship from June 10 to July 10. It welcomed 1.5 million fans, and the French government released a mobile phone app to alert the public in the event of a terrorist attack.

Like the football fans, travel-lovers need not abandon their journeys. Travel is a powerful force in diminishing bigotry in these days of rising terrorism, and certainly it is one of life's best pleasures.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness," American author Mark Twain memorably said. "Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

Preparing for the worst - and finding ways to move around in a savvy, vigilant way - is important for the traveller's peace of mind. And it might save life and limb.

 

BEFORE YOU GO

1. Buy comprehensive travel insurance that also covers acts of terrorism and war. Review the terms and conditions, and be clear about the coverage. For instance, if you decide to cancel your trip because a terror act has occurred at the destination before your vacation begins, check if the insurer will reimburse you for any non-refundable travel expenses.

2. Register overseas travel with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) which has a free e-Register service. The MFA can contact or assist Singapore citizens in an emergency.

3. Know the location of safe havens such as police stations and hospitals, and list their telephone numbers. Singaporeans who need emergency consular assistance can call the 24-hour Ministry of Foreign Affairs Duty Office at +65-63798800/8855, emailmfa_duty_officer@mfa.gov.sg, or contact the nearest Singapore overseas mission.

4. Share your itinerary with family and friends, and stay in touch with them when you travel.

5. Look up travel notices issued by the MFA at this web page.

The US State Department has dossiers on every country on its website and its Smart Traveler app, downloadable for free from both the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores, has up-to-the-minute travel warnings and alerts that are useful, if American-centric.

Use search terms such as "safe travel" to find such free apps with a focus on security, including Emergency Call (call for the police, ambulance and fire service anywhere in the world) and Safeture (real-time travel alerts, with a feature to let friends know your real-time trail).

 

WHILE TRAVELLING

1. Keep track of local news and security developments.

2. Be aware of your surroundings and stay alert to suspicious behaviour in public places. Keep a distance from demonstrations or any unrest.

3. When travelling with family or friends, decide on a rendezvous point, or how to reconnect, in case of a crisis.

4. If you know a local, perhaps a friend of a friend, establish contact before you travel and keep the contact information handy. Also have the map, address and telephone number of your hotel with you.

5. Outline an evacuation plan out of the destination if possible. Sometimes, an option is to drive to a different place, usually the nearest big city, to fly out of the country.

 

WHEN TERRORISTS STRIKE

1. Return to your hotel by taxi if possible and avoid the chaos of public transportation.

2. Remain inside your hotel, where there is food and lines of communication are hopefully open, and do not venture into the streets. Stick to the curfew, if any.

3. Stay away from windows, especially if you are in a building near a terrorist attack, in case of snipers or shattering glass.

4. Follow the instructions of local authorities.

5. Assemble a "flyaway kit" or small backpack with basics for an evacuation, from identification papers, money and credit cards to a change of clothes, water and medicine, if you need to leave in a rush.

6. However, the situation on the ground will be very fluid. You may have to patiently wait for local authorities get the situation under control and deem it safe to leave.

 

A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on July 15, 2016. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.

Image copyright: anyaberkut / 123RF Stock Photo

Thrifty travel tips: This new app will earn you more miles for cheaper air tickets

Image: Pexels

A new app called Mileslife has landed in Singapore, promising users the ability to collect airline miles in an easier way.

They are able to do so by accruing miles through purchases at the app's partner merchants, which include restaurants, attractions and hotels.

The purchases must be made via credit and debit cards on the app, and users can also "double dip" - if the card is already linked to an existing miles programme, users can collect miles on both platforms.

The miles accrued can be collected and applied later to one of 12 airline loyalty programmes partnering Mileslife.

These are tied to 39 airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa and Air China.

After paying via the app, users will be able to earn up to five miles for every dollar, with the conversion rate decided by Mileslife and the respective merchant.

Miles are accrued based on loyalty programmes usually offered by airlines and credit card companies, and can be used to buy plane tickets.

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Mileslife founder and chief executive officer Troy Liu said at the launch yesterday: "Earning miles is a relatively slow process and as a consumer myself, I wanted to find an easier process for consumers.

"Mileslife can be a local miles-oriented lifestyle platform and when you travel abroad, it becomes a miles-oriented travel guidebook."

Mileslife has 50 accredited merchants here, including 10 Crystal Jade restaurants, Capella Hotel and Universal Studios Singapore.

The app was first launched in China in November 2015 and has 200,000 Chinese users so far.

Mr Liu said the next step is to partner more merchants in South-east Asia.

Mr Philip Law, 43, regional vice-president of Discover Financial Services Asia-Pacific, flies weekly, mainly around Asean for business.

He said he would use the app as long as it is secure, "convenient and user-friendly".

 

This story was originally published in The New Paper. For more stories like this, head to www.tnp.sg.

5 travel packing hacks to help save your luggage space

Photo: 123RF.com

For some of us, the lunar new year signals a time for get-togethers with family and friends which inevitably means gathering around the dinner table for hot pot, exchanging pleasantries with relatives (who you only meet once a year) and for those who’re married — handing out red packets.

Then there are those who prefer to head overseas for a quick trip instead of being subjected to all the questions from nosy uncles and aunties.

So, if you’ve booked plane tickets to dodge the upcoming CNY, here are some tips to help organise your suitcase and maximise your luggage space. This means there will be room for all your souvenirs and purchases. Hooray!

1. Store your socks and toiletries in your shoes

Utilise the empty space within your sneakers by filling it with your rolled-up socks or even small bottles of body wash and shampoo. To prevent them from spilling, place them into plastic bags before stuffing them into your shoes.

2. Take disposable underwear instead of you own knickers

Disposable underwear is easy to get at stores like Watsons and Guardian, and mostly come in packs of five. Since you can throw it away after each use, there’ll be more space to load up on your purchases for your return baggage. This also means there’s less dirty laundry to clear when you’re back.

3. Pack your bigger toiletries neatly in a ziplock bag

Instead of throwing everything into your luggage — and risk possible leakage — fit all your beauty products in one or two transparent ziplock bags. And since they’re transparent, you can easily locate them in your suitcase.

4. Forget plastic bags. Just re-use your hotel’s drawstring bags

Most hotel rooms provide disposable slippers that usually come with a shoe bag. Instead of tossing it into the bin, why not recycle and use them to store dirty socks or shoes? This will help to keep your luggage neat and tidy too.

5. Use your spectacle case to store wires, headphones and chargers

The thing about wires is that they are hard to organise, making it a real mess to deal with when you want to plug in your headphones or charger. The solution: Coil them up and use your sunglass case to hold them. This way, they’ll be less likely to become entangled.

Still unclear about what to take with you on your holiday? Read our list of 6 things that are every budget traveller's must-haves.

The 15 travel destinations you must visit

Discover the world afresh, whether it’s a train trip in the Arctic Circle, a homestay in Mongolia, or playing in the timeless toytown of Legoland in Denmark. 

Travel writer Lee Siew Hua highlights 15 of the top travelogues from the Straits Times archives. 

1. PATAGONIA, CHILE AND ARGENTINA


Hotel Las Torres Patagonia, set in the Torres del Paine National Park, is a scenic base from which visitors can explore the region, including the Grey Glacier and Lake Toro. PHOTO: HOTEL LAS TORRES PATAGONIA

With windswept pinnacles and glaciers clustered in the far south of Latin America, wild Patagonia is a hyper-real journey to the rim of the world.

Read more.

 

2. ZAMBIA


A microlight flight over Victoria Falls affords a 360-degree view of the landscape from 250m in the sky. PHOTO: BATOKA SKY

The wildest dreams come alive in Zambia, whether it’s riding a microlight through the mist of Victoria Falls or taking a cheetah for a walk.

Read more.

 

3. IRAN


The grand Naqsh-e Jahan Square (above) in Isfahan, a Unesco-listed site with mosques, a palace and bazaar. PHOTO: CALVIN CHEUNG

Iran is safe and super-friendly, and rewards the wanderer with hidden gardens, echoes of great civilisations past and a stylish lifestyle. With Iran fast opening up, this is the best time to visit.

Read more here and here.

 

4. FIJI


Kama Beach in Fiji. PHOTO: INTERCONTINENTAL FIJI GOLF RESORT & SPA

In the heart of the less-explored South Pacific, frangipani-scented Fiji is a paradise for sea-lovers.

Read more.

 

5. NORTHERN HOKKAIDO, JAPAN


Sunset off Rishiri Island. PHOTO: RISHIRIFUJI TOWN TOURISM BUREAU

At the northernmost tip of Japan, travellers revel in the uni-rich shores and still sense the intrigue of the Cold War.

Read more.

 

6. IRRAWADDY RIVER CRUISE, MYANMAR


One of Bagan's more than 2,000 temples and pagodas. PHOTO: LEE JIAN XUAN

Cruise luxuriously down the mighty Irrawaddy River to experience Myanmar’s storied past and its panoramic world.

Read more.

 

7. MONGOLIA


Gers set up on a plain in Mongolia. PHOTO: LESLIE KOH

Staying in a round, warm tent amid nomads is a wonderful way to relish life in the middle of nowhere.

Read more.

 

8. LEGOLAND, DENMARK


A Lego sculpture of a dragon, complete with sound effects, in the lobby of Hotel Legoland in Billund. PHOTO: CLARA CHOW

Whoosh, whoosh! Battle baddies at the new Ninjago World in Legoland - and take a breather in Lego's tranquil hometown of Billund.

Read more.

 

9. AMRITSAR, INDIA


Amritsar's Golden Temple, a central religious place for Sikhs. PHOTO: CLARA LOCK

In northern India, step into the shimmering Golden Temple and dance at the India-Pakistan border.

Read more.

 

10. HOI AN, VIETNAM


Hoi An Ancient Town - a Unesco World Heritage site - epitomises the old Vietnam. PHOTO: DENISE LIM

The piquant dish of cao lau rice noodles embodies the many cultural layers of Hoi An, an old-world Vietnamese town.

Read more.

 

11. ARCTIC CIRCLE, NORWAY & SWEDEN


The magnificent view from high above the Trollfjord. PHOTO: EDWARD J. TAYLOR

A journey by train and ship deep into the Arctic Circle, a world of ice and isolated towns, laced with dazzling Northern Lights. 

Read more.

 

12. DARIEN GAP, COLOMBIA 


Capurgana in Colombia has an edgy charm with brightly painted bars for adventurous tourists. PHOTO: MARTIN FLETCHER

The wilderness of the Darien Gap, an isolated isthmus between Colombia and Panama, is newly open to travellers. Marxist guerillas have signed a peace pact and are leaving this stronghold.

Read more.

 

13. WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES


The National Mall in Washington, DC. PHOTO: ROB SCHENK

Washington may be a highly political city but it’s also a high-energy haven for kids. Let them turn into little astronauts or tepee-dwellers in museums, run free among monuments, or be treated like tiny royals in hotels.

Read more.

 

14. SRI LANKA


The shores of Lake Koggala in Sri Lanka. PHOTO: LEE SIEW HUA

Savour the imagined lifestyle of colonial British tea-planters in the hill country, watch whales in the Indian Ocean, or linger at a hidden lake at three luxe resorts in Sri Lanka.

Read more.

 

15. BORDEAUX, FRANCE


Chateau La Lagune in Haut-Medoc, a winery and third-growth Grand Cru Classe producer. PHOTO: CHATEAU LA LAGUNE

Enjoy the plush chateau life in Bordeaux, which has been making wine since Roman times.

Read more.

 

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

 

5 cities perfect for a last-minute Easter getaway!

Image: Robert Essel NYC / Corbis

We love our long weekends. It’s the breather we all need from work, and for others, it’s the perfect opportunity to use their annual leave for a longer break.

If #wanderlust is hitting you hard, then we’re here to play devil’s advocate. Take some (deserving) time off and travel. #YOLO, right?

Okay, not quite. We understand responsibilities, and we understand that not everyone can afford to up and leave whenever. That’s why we’ve curated this list of cities to visit that offer the best savings during this period – because, you know, we care.

1. OSAKA

Did someone say “cherry blossom”? No? Well, we’ll say it now: Cherry blossoms. Do you need any better reason to travel to Japan? Perhaps the fact that you could save up to 94 percent if you book your tickets now? Alright, we’re done tempting you (for now), but real talk. The Good Friday weekend is one of the most promising times to see the cherished cherry blossoms, so if you’ve been considering applying for leave, we highly suggest you do it. It only happens once a year, after all!

2. KRABI

Clear beaches, endless soft shores, night strolls … It’s the idyllic holiday we all dream of taking. So do it. Treat yourself to a good, deserving rest. Too much work doesn’t just make Jack a dull boy, it causes dull skin too. Booking now can bring you up to 32 percent savings, so what are you waiting for? Whip out your best swimsuits, get ready for some fresh air, and soak up the sun – but don’t forget to pack your best sunblock!

3. HO CHI MINH CITY

Ho Chi Minh is such a cultural and historically-rich city, that we can’t imagine anyone passing this up! Lonely Planet describes it as a city that “breathes life and vitality”, and we couldn’t find a more succinct way to say it. It’s the perfect contrast of old and new, with beautiful skyscrapers and haunting mementos from its darker history. This isn’t just a city for history buffs, though. Beyond the insightful experience into Vietnam’s not-too-distant past, you can wander through designer malls, bargaining your way to a fuller wardrobe.

4. MANILA

Ah, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’. There’s no chance of you getting bored in this city. There’s so much to see, from gleaming malls to the Manila Metropolitan Theater. If you’re one to appreciate architecture, it might be interesting to note that Manila boasts one of the most architecturally-diverse landscape. What does this mean for you? Your Instagram feed will be filled with beautiful buildings that never look the same. Manila is a melting pot of cultural experiences just waiting to be explored, and there’s no better time than now!

5. PENANG

How could we exclude our next-door neighbour? Cross the causeway for the long weekend and get some shopping done, and (of course) eat some of Southeast Asia’s best street food – because what kind of a holiday would it be without those two activities, right? Better yet, save on flight tickets and make a road trip out of this! Begin at Johor Bahru, take a break at Malacca, spend a night in Kuala Lumpur, have a quick snack at Taiping, and then cool down and unwind with some classic Penang cendol once you’ve reached, where good food abound!

Ugh, our mouths are watering just at the thought of some delectable laksa. Can Good Friday get here already?!

 

All data was provided by Skyscanner, and is based off 2015's Good Friday prices. Sign up for Skyscanner's Price Alerts on mobile and desktop to get daily notifications on air ticket prices, and to find out when the best time to book tickets are.

Want to travel on a budget? Check out these tips on how you can save money while you travel for a more memorable experience!

The ways of the incorrigible travel hoarder

Over the years, I’ve amassed piles of receipts and a mess of useless travel stuff that I refuse to throw away.And the pile that you see here, forms just a small fraction of last year’s vacation “collection”.

The hoarder in me says, “what if these maps come useful some other time?” “What if I find a need for these travel guides, to plan for my next trip?”Of course, the same reason can’t justify the need for ticket stubs or travel receipts. Or my incorrigible need to buy postcards at every trip; even if I mail out less than half of these.Okay, I’m probably being too sentimental about scraps of paper. They are things that should have been tossed into bins ages ago.But so what? These have become almost time capsules of each trip; I’ll store each in a folder, and hide them away in boxes under my desk. And believe it or not, they’re actually fun to rummage through, in remembrance of a good trip months or even years later. Some of these mean more to me because of some of the solo trips I’d gone for, as I made my way around cities I’ve never been to. And yes, getting lost along the way while travelling is perfectly acceptable. If I’ve honestly kept everything from these trips, I would have even more bags of things. Including a pair of disposable chopsticks; an earnest fellow traveller who was also robbed gave it to me at a police station in Paris (that alone may be worth writing about on another occasion). Maybe I shouldn’t even have thrown that away. Someday, I’ll store all of these travel items nicely in a scrapbook. And pen down the memory of each occasion. (Only when I’ve oodles of time, perhaps in a semi-retired state.)‘Til then, I’ll continue to stubbornly hold on to these fragments of past trips. Who knows what memories that each of these could trigger.Are you a travel hoarder too? What’s your most beloved keepsake from your trips? We’ll love to hear more; share with us, in the comment box below.