SINGAPORE - Since the restart of travel last year, Mr Aaron Wong, pro-traveller and founder of the MileLion site, has visited Germany, Australia, South Korea, Thailand and more.
Mr Wong is so well-versed in the art of travelling smart that his home-grown travel-hacking company, the MileLion, shows more than 300,000 readers every month how to travel more for less and make sense of changing travel rules.
He spoke to The Straits Times travel editor Lee Siew Hua about his pandemic journeys and shared tips on making the most out of vacations. The virtual talk, askST@NLB, a collaboration between The Straits Times and the National Library Board (NLB), was shared on ST's Facebook page at 7pm on April 29.
He recalls the trip he took last month with his father, who was travelling for the first time since the pandemic. They flew to Los Angeles to catch the Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament, where there was no mask mandate.
"It didn't even occur to him to take off his mask. We've seen that in Singapore now as well - even though you can take off your mask, people are still keeping it on. It will take a while to rewire your brain," the 33-year-old said.
Mr Wong and Ms Lee also discussed the rise of digital nomads - travel lovers who work and play at a destination for an extended time.
This is a travel super-trend accentuated by the pandemic, Ms Lee observed, with digital nomads and "slowmads" spending over 35 per cent of their income at their destinations. Some tourism boards may divert budgets towards these free spirits, who also top up local job markets in a global talent crunch, she said.
Mr Wong quipped: "If it's one thing the pandemic has shown, it's that working in the office is overrated."
Currently, travelling is costly, but Mr Wong uses a variety of ways to rack up his miles which can be exchanged for flights, hotel stays and other rewards.
He recommended knowing your credit cards well, taking advantage of sign-up bonuses and periodic offers, and using mile cards over cash-back cards.
Research is important, he says.
Some countries are a bit more confusing or costly to travel to because of the regulations, he says. Countries that require PCR tests, for instance, will add to the globetrotter's budget, especially for families. Other considerations include paperwork, and the clarity of protocols for people recovered from Covid-19.
He concluded that after not travelling for such a long time, "performance anxiety" is normal, but he is confident that the collective nervousness will ease over time.
"People go to the US if they want to shop, people go to Australia for the food. It's like everything was on pause and now people are trying to go back."
Members of the public can find more information and resources on this topic at ProQuest Central - a database the NLB subscribes to - using the keywords "vacation tips" and "travel hacks".
A myLibrary ID is required to access the database.
Those who do not have a myLibrary ID can go to account.nlb.gov.sg and sign up for one using their Singpass or identity card number or Foreign Identification Number.
The video recording of the event and past sessions can be found here: str.sg/askstnlb. The next askST@NLB session will be held on May 27.
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