Singapore, Traveling on a Budget

Challenge: Singapore on a shoe-string budget

credit belongs to owner

credit belongs to owner

I know – Singapore and shoe-string budget are two words that doesn’t usually appear next to each other.

But what can I do? I was given marching orders by the family to prepare a family trip to Singapore with just a budget of PHP10,000 per person, exclusive of plane tickets and lodging.

The plane tickets and lodging — my sister and I paid for. We were able to get round trip tickets to Singapore via JetStar for PHP5,000 per pax all inclusive (minus the usual airport fees 😦 ) For lodging, we were able to book a family room on a guesthouse located in Perak Road at the boundary of Little India and Bugis. The guesthouse, Footprints Hostel enjoys nice reviews at Trip Advisor and we were able to score a family room for SGD120 per night (PHP4,200 on a SGD1=PHP35 exchange rate) or roughly PHP700 per person per night. Our four day night stay came to less than PHP18,000 — a feat, considering that hotels in Singapore are not exactly known for low fees.

So, the PHP10,000 or roughly SGD285 roughly accounts for the per person budget, I have to make sure that my mom and dad’s first trip to the beautiful Red Dot will be worth it. Mum is celebrating her 59th birthday while we are in Singapore so I am already looking for simple yet enjoyable activities that will make my beloved Senior Citizens happy. Non-negotiables of course is the trip to Universal Studios and Sentosa, along with a visit to the Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion at Marina Bay. Other than that, I do not exactly plan on spending on attractions that my parents will not fully appreciate.

Let me share something with you, my parents are simple people. The mere fact that they were able to go to a foreign country (something they didn’t even thought to be wildly possible) is enough cause of happiness for them. This early, they already requested to see the Merlion, Sentosa and Universal Studios — those were the non-negotiables. My mum and dad are both kids at heart and would revel on seeings sights they used to see on TV will be conversation-fodder that would last weeks.

The first time we told them that we bought tickets for the whole family going to Singapore, they–especially my mum–were ecstatic. I don’t know if it’s right to share this with you, but the week after – they started saving money for it. My dad already has 80% of his personal budget in my safekeeping and my mum already filled two piggy banks with her savings. Last I heard, she even managed to top the personal budget and she kept on saving because she wanted to buy souvenirs for her friends.

Unlike our Hong Kong Family Trip last year where I was confident that we will be able to survive HK with a measly budget of about PHP8,000 per person, I am more wary with the Singapore trip. In order to limit the expenses to SGD 285 or SGD300 at most, I have already came up with the following ground rules:

1. We are not paying premium Singapore dollars for attractions that will easily bore the men in the family who all had short attention spans (i.e. dad, the hubby and the baby brother) – i.e. entrance to the Gardens by the Bay Conservation areas. We’d rather take pictures outside with the gigantic Supertrees in the background.

2. We will spend our budget on attractions that everyone will enjoy – For example, everyone will have fun swimming and trying out the water attractions of the Water Adventure Park but not everyone will enjoy Night Safari. This is actually a dilemma — between Night Safari and gallivanting around Sentosa, which is more enjoyable?

3. Spend money discovering the food. Let the parents discover hawker center and ice cream sandwiches!

4. Enjoy public transpo especially Singapore’s efficient MRT system.

5. Don’t be afraid to look for attractions or activities that are fun but cost less or are even FREE.

I will definitely let you know if I will be successful with this new challenge. But you know me, I thrive on making trips happen in spite impossibly restricting budgets. Wish me luck though, and feel free to drop me a note if you have suggestions!

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Travel Diaries

My Travel Journals and I: All great journeys begin with a stroke of a pen

A journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.
In my case, it’s with the simple stroke of a pen right after the tickets have been confirmed and a confirmation of flight has been forwarded to my email address.

I have always been the type of girl to search for the tiniest details each time I plan a quick get-away, whether where to sleep, stay or even exchange foreign currency. In our family, I was the type to plot a trip in MS Excel with grids dedicated to itinerary, budge and number of recommended hours for travel and commute.

Tedious as it may sound, I find simple joys in looking up attractions, interesting B&Bs, cheap accommodations and even the occasional to-die for restaurant where we can splurge and enjoy a great meal.

I’ve had three travel journals since 2007. The first one, a thick tome with cutesy shojo manga drawings and barely discernible English quotes, covered my trips from 2007-2009; the second one from 2010 to 2012 and latest one for an upcoming family trip to HK alone.

Two of my three journals. The first one (not pictured) contained copious notes about Singapore and HK. From the eyes of a first-time traveler.

My second notebook was a thick, black hard-bound rectangle notebook with the picture of a black cat on the cover. Inside was three sets of writing pads which was perfect for quick notes and easy reminders. This notebook served me so well when I went back to Singapore in 2011 and of course, during the Great Seoul Searching Trip.

travel journal

Notes on how to go around Busan, with foreign currency translated into pesos. Indicated was the cost of transportation via the airport bus from Gimhae International Airport to Busan Train Station (KRW5,000 = PHP189)

Finalizing the room reservations at Zaza Backpackers, Myeongdong, Seoul

I am currently using a small orange colored Moleskine-type notebook, with the words “WanderGrrrrrrl” drawn in front. I drew this one day during a really slow day at the office. Currently, this notebook contained notes and plans for an upcoming trip next week. The notebook also contained budgets, hostel choices and a few directions going from one attraction to another. At the back, I stapled a small copy of the MRT map in Hong Kong. While I know that maps will be easily available once we landed in Chep Lap Kok, the OC girl in me is happy and at peace with the fact that I have a map stapled at the back of my notebook.

This notebook is small and compact and can easily fit my pocket or small day bag. I think this one is perfect when my very dysfunctional-ly funny, but dearly beloved family (mum and dad included!) takes the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui for the very first time.

If you will notice in the pictures, there are tabs highlighting the sections: one section was allocated for our first day plans, another one is for the second day and so on and so forth. Each section contains commute, budget and itinerary as well as some recommended side trips like a trip to Ikea, etc.

I am now down on my last twenty pages and I am sure that before this trip draws to a close, I will again be breaking out a new notebook to serve me on future trips both locally and outside the country.

In this day and age where everything can be found in just a few clicks in our smartphones and iPADs, you might ask me why bother writing it all down in paper.

I don’t know, but for me — there’s a certain “order into things” whenever I summarize all the information out there and write them (in order). It gives me the sweet sense that I am going somewhere and that I have truly prepared for it. The same notebook serves as a reminder of the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve enjoyed and the “not-so-much”. The writings, no matter how hurried or out of place some of them may seem, hold a certain gravitas and memory. After a few months or so, you will look back and remember that great food you have somewhere on the backstreets of the city; or the number of the hostel you booked online and forgot about.

People buy keepsakes of their adventures, I tend to write them down. To me, all great journeys-good and bad memories-begin with a single stroke of a pen.

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Asia, Hong Kong

A planned trip back to the Fragrant Harbor (My Hong Kong Diaries)

Picture from The Hong Kong Tourism Board website

I am currently arranging for an upcoming trip to Hong Kong and possibly, Macau this coming October.
I have been to the city twice, with my brother and sister as a pre-wedding get-away in 2008 and with the dear hubby in 2009 during our first overseas trip as husband and wife.

We are going back as a treat to our elderly parents, especially our mum who will be celebrating her 59th birthday during the trip. The upcoming trip is also our pop’s first trip out of the country. He is already 61 years old and we wanted him to experience traveling while he is still strong enough to do so. When he was 59 years old, we treated him to Bantayan Island in Cebu, and made him experience air travel for the first time. It was so priceless, like treating a kid to a candy store. Last year, my sister and I realized that we have been traveling too much in the last few years but we weren’t able to bring our parents who have yet to experience what it’s like being in a foreign country. So, we harassed them to get their papers in order in order to acquire passports. After a few months of searching for a trip for everyone, we finally settled with Hong Kong, especially since mum and pops would love to see Disneyland.

For the upcoming trip, we’ve decided to stay at City Econo Guesthouse in Nathan Road, based on the glowing reviews posted over Trip Advisor and the HK forum at PEX. Again, this is not the Hong Kong Peninsula, but we just wanted a place where we can dump all of stuff and crash peacefully/safely at night. I already arranged our stay and confirmed our reservation with the kind and efficient owner who did not collect a down payment for the stay but instead advised me to re-confirm our stay three days prior to the trip. I booked one quadruple room for HKD700 per night and one double room for HKD400 per night — cheap considering October is conference season for HK and all hotels/guesthouses gets filled up quickly.

I have yet to finalize our itinerary, but for the 4D 3N stay — we figured we’ll go to the time and tested tourist areas which my parents would love: Disneyland, the Avenue of Stars, Victoria Peak and Ngong Ping 360. Yes, we’ve been to these places before, but again this trip is not for us but for our mom and dad who would be seeing all these for the first time.

Well, HK Disneyland has always been a favorite. I love that place so much, like I was a kid once again and have managed to forgot (even for a while) all my grown up worries. (How’s this for super dork? I cried during the Fireworks Display)

HK Disneyland, 2008 (with the Queen and the little bro)

I am also trying to keep the cost down, considering that I don’t want my mom and dad to get overwhelmed with the expenses of traveling. While my sister and I will be spending for the plane fare and the hotel accommodations, I don’t want them to think that traveling is expensive. I pretty much have everything figured out: the transportation (we are taking the A21 bus to and from the airport), the budget per day, the itinerary for the three days (though we are still considering going to Macau) as well as the eateries we will check out while we were there.

Hopefully, I’ll have everything set by the end of August or first week of September. You know how OC I get when it comes to traveling.

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