Going overseas this year end? Here are 10 tips for a hassle-free holiday

A scenic picture of Lofoten in Norway. Cast nagging travel worries aside with these useful tips, from packing to travelling with children, for a hassle-free trip to round off the year.
A scenic picture of Lofoten in Norway. Cast nagging travel worries aside with these useful tips, from packing to travelling with children, for a hassle-free trip to round off the year.ST PHOTO: LYDIA VASKO

This article was first published on Nov 15, 2016, and updated on Dec 11, 2017.

SINGAPORE - The holiday season is drawing near and you might be looking forward to taking a vacation overseas.

Whether that holiday turns out to be the dream trip of a lifetime can be decided by the smallest things.

For example, your excitement levels can take a plunge when your expensive moisturiser gets binned by airport security, or when you are stranded without Internet connection overseas.

Cast those nagging worries aside with these useful tips, from packing to travelling with children, for a hassle-free trip to round off the year.

1. How do I get the best travel deals?

 Visitors browsing some travel brochures at the Natas travel fair at the Singapore Expo on Aug 14, 2016. ST PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH

There are many, many tips for scoring travel deals, but just remember three over-arching strategies, distilled from the insights of travel experts: Just ask. Go the other direction. Do legwork. 

Find out more on how to save here.

2. What can I pack into my hand luggage?

About three in 10 confiscated items are water in disposable bottles. Personal items like hair spray, gels and toothpaste, as well as food products like kaya and canned food, for example, have also been surrendered. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Do you know what items you can put in your carry-on bag and what you should pack into your checked-in luggage?

And do you know lithium batteries have to be hand carried?

There are many who make the mistake of not verifying what is not allowed on board planes. Between January and September this year, travellers at Changi Airport had to surrender more than 142,000 prohibited items such as scissors and pepper spray canisters. Another 1.13 million items which were liquids, gels and aerosols such as perfumes and make-up that were not packed properly - or about 126,000 a month - were also confiscated.

Here is the lowdown on Singapore regulations so you do not add to these numbers.

3.  How should I pack for the changing weather?

Find out how to pack for all weathers, including winter. PHOTO: DYNASTY TRAVEL

Packing with the constraints of an airline baggage allowance can be frustrating. The worst case scenario? Wearing shorts and T-shirts in biting cold. When temperatures can fluctuate wildly in a matter of days, you don't want to be unprepared.

Here are some tips for packing for all weathers.

4. What should I consider when buying travel plans?

Travellers should ensure that the travel insurance covers certain categories of people - senior citizens (above 75 years), young children (below six months) or someone with special needs, for example, a pregnant woman. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Price should not be the only determining factor in purchasing travel plans, advised Ms Annie Chua, NTUC Income's vice-president and head of personal lines.

"(Travellers) should look at the types of benefits and the coverage which are most important and relevant to them, as well as consider any exclusions and claim limits for each benefit," she said.

Find out more here.

Also, don't take the risk of travelling without insurance and check out travel coverage with novel features here

5. What should I take note of when I am travelling with my young kid?

Travelling with young children can be a great experience but it is not always the easiest. PHOTO: CLARA CHOW

Travelling with young children is a great learning experience for them - but they may not be used to long haul travel. 

Here are some tips on how to keep them happy during the journey.

6. What is the cheapest way to stay connected on the go?

Another option is to rent a Wi-Fi router from Changi Airport to create a Wi-Fi hot spot overseas. PHOTO: CHANGI RECOMMENDS

Data roaming can be prohibitively expensive, and even the smallest bit of overseas data use can result in a huge bill shock upon your return. However, there are ways to gain Internet access while overseas at affordable rates.

It ultimately boils down to two things: the telco you are on and whether you want to swop your SIM card, or whether you want to carry around an external Wi-Fi device.

7.  What are the general rules of tipping?

Visitors dine at a rotating restaurant at the Ostankino TV Tower in Moscow on Dec 8, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

If you are going overseas and would like to tip in line with local customs, here is what to keep in mind.

Tipping customs differ from country to country - in some places it is not expected and may even be considered a no-no, such as in Japan. When in doubt, check with the local tourist information centres or your hotel.

Tipping is said to have originated in England, although this is subject to debate. They can be left for restaurant staff, hotel employees, tour guides or other types of workers in the service industry. 

Tips for waiters in the US range from 15 per cent to 25 per cent of the bill. This is lesser in Brazil at 10 per cent, and 5 per cent to 10 per cent in Sweden, according to the BBC.

According to TripAdvisor, tipping is not required in Britain but appreciated - it is not done in fast food restaurants, but a 10 per cent tip is appropriate in retaurants if the service was stellar.

Here is a more detailed guide to tipping in the US.

8. Do I need to pay GST for the bag I bought overseas?

Shoppers at the Shilla Duty Free shop at Changi Airport Terminal 1. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Travellers, including Singaporeans returning from abroad, need to pay GST on the total value of goods that exceeds the GST relief.

The magic figures are 150 and 600.

GST for goods valued below $150 is not applicable for travellers who are out of Singapore for less than 48 hours.

For those who are away for more than 48 hours, GST is exempt for goods valued up to $600.

9. How do I guard against pickpockets? 

Travellers are easy prey for pickpockets, but being vigilant in a foreign land goes a long way to not losing your possessions. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

Travellers can be easy prey for pickpockets, but being vigilant in a foreign land goes a long way to not losing your possessions. 

Many Singaporeans are victims of theft and pickpockets while travelling overseas.

Read here for some tips on how to avoid becoming a victim. 

10. What should I do in the event of an emergency? 

Travellers at Changi International Airport Terminal 3. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Travel emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. 

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.

Read more here.