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Archive for August, 2011

Koh Samui from Singapore flights launched by SilkAir

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Koh Samui is one of Thailand’s finest beach destinations, with pristine beaches, a good variety of beach resorts and activities.

Currently, flights from Singapore to Koh Samui are only available via Bangkok Airways. I travelled on Bangkok Airways to Koh Samui before and honestly, it is a good airline but for budget travellers like myself, airfares are rather expensive – from at least $350 per person (including taxes) return trip. That’s because Bangkok Airways enjoyed a monopoly on the SIN – USM – SIN route… until next month.

From 27 Sep 2011, SilkAir will commence flights from Singapore to Koh Samui. The introductory return airfare is priced at S$308 including taxes. This is an awesome deal and it sends a signal out that there will be some serious competition between the 2 carriers for passengers. True, S$308 may not be cheap for a 2 hour flight compared to what budget carriers offer, but at least it is a good start. I can’t wait till the day AirAsia, Jetstar or Tiger Airways start flying this route – they will give SilkAir and Bangkok Airways some serious pressure!

What’s great about SilkAir’s new flights, besides price, is the schedule. MI 772 departs Singapore at 8.10am and arrives in Koh Samui at 9.00am local time, allowing you a full day of activities. This compares with Bangkok Airways’ evening flight which means wasting 1 night of hotel accommodation on the day of arrival.

The best website to book SilkAir flights is actually not on SilkAir.com itself, but on ZUJI.com.sg – you can earn $25 rebate off your next booking if you use a MasterCard to book. If you use a DBS/POSB MasterCard to book, you get $35 rebate!

Budget travel tips and tricks: Getting cheap airfares during peak season with miles

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Planning to reward yourself with a year-end getaway but not willing to fork out too much of your hard-earned money to pay for peak season airfares at a premium?

There’s a way out… make use of your frequent flyer miles. And, use your frequent flyer miles only during periods where you cannot get any cheap, paid airfares.

I’ll first talk about how much you can save using frequent flyer miles to redeem flights, then about how you can earn those miles.

In my earlier post I mentioned I paid just S$120 for a return air ticket by Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Hong Kong, over the 2011 Year End – 2012 New Year period. I did this by redeeming my KrisFlyer miles. I used 22,500 miles for 1 ticket and paid S$120 for taxes.

How much is this redemption worth, i.e., is it worth spending 22,500 miles for a return air ticket to Hong Kong? Let’s see.

On Singapore Airlines’ website now, a promotional airfare from SIN – HKG – SIN during non-peak season is at a base fare of S$324 plus about S$120 in taxes.

For the dates I am travelling (30 Dec – 2 Jan), base fare is at S$605 now, plus taxes of about S$120. This means my 22,500 miles are worth almost double the value for peak season travel.

Now, next question is, how can you earn those miles?

For those who travel frequently on business, you should have plenty of miles to redeem from your business trips – don’t leave them lying around unused like I did with my NWA (now Delta) miles… or you’ll regret it when inflation sets in! It used to cost me just 20,000 miles to redeem a return ticket from SIN – Tokyo – SIN, but now that has tripled to 60,000 miles! In comparison, a flight redemption from SIN – Tokyo – SIN on Singapore Airlines’ Krisflyer program costs 34,000 miles.

So, it’s important to first choose an airline/frequent flyer miles program which gives you the best value. At the moment the best program if you are based in Singapore, is probably Krisflyer. Used to be NWA but now inflation has set in…

For those of you who do not travel frequently for work, like myself, fret not… as long as you are eligible for a credit card, you can earn frequent flyer miles when you spend on your credit cards too!

I use Citibank’s Premiermiles Visa Signature card. It gives me 1.2 miles per $1 spent, and in return for paying S$180 subscription fee annually, I get 10,000 bonus miles. This means that If I spend about $10k on the card, together with the bonus miles, I can redeem a flight worth S$605! Effectively, this means a rebate of $605/$10,000 x 100% = 6.05%!

There are plenty of credit cards offering cash rebate programs, but they typically offer anywhere between 0.1% to 5% at selected stores only… still not as good as what I’m getting out of my mileage. Furthermore, if you spend S$5k per month, you get to earn 2 miles for every dollar spent. That means if you have a big ticket item to spend on, you just need to spend S$6k to get 12,000 miles… add on 10,000 bonus miles and you’ll have an effective rebate of almost 10% if you redeem your miles for an air ticket worth $600!

Please feel free to post your comments and share your tips on how to maximise ROI out of FFP and credit card programs!

In my next post I will share more on how I managed to save almost 40% off my hotel stay in Hong Kong, also during peak travel season.

Budget travel tips and tricks: travel on a budget during peak season

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How do you travel on a budget during peak season?

I recently booked a year-end holiday to Hong Kong (I’ll be counting down to 2012 there!).

Many of you who have tried to book year end holidays in previous years would know that most flights are sold out early or exorbitantly expensive. There were even media reports last year saying that some families booked business class airfares just because they had no other choices left!

Spending top dollar to get to a destination is against my principles. I don’t mind spending good money on shopping, food and drinks, but I don’t see a point in paying through my teeth to get from from one place to another… particularly so for a short flight of a few hours.

How much did I pay for my SQ flight + 3-night stay in a 4-star hotel (Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay) in Hong Kong? S$340.

Amazing isn’t it, especially for a year-end weekend trip?

If you look on Expedia, Zuji.com.sg or even SingaporeAir.com.sg now, the airfare per person for flights departing to Hong Kong in the last week of December 2011 is about S$600 per person inclusive of taxes. I paid just S$120, or 80% off.

If you look on Expedia, to book a Standard Room at Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay for 3 nights over the new year period with 1 night on 1 January 2012, it’d cost you US$700, or about S$875. I paid just S$450, nearly half the price.

Want to know how I did it? I will share more in the next 2 blog postings… stay tuned for more!

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