Finally just got back from a 5 week trip through Asia and I wanted to write to tell you how I did it for so little money – I’m talking about costs for flights and hotels for 7 countries and 12 different cities. I also want to include some tips for planning and amenities to bring! To follow will be a separate blog for each country I travelled to.
Which Countries To Visit?
Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan – why these countries? Because the majority of them have great weather in February/March and the costs are pretty cheap (excluding Japan) Always do your research on weather for each place. You definitely do not want to travel to a destination during bad months for example typhoon season in the Philippines (June – October). I decided to do Japan last because I wanted to hit up all the warm destinations first so I can pack light and then buy jackets/coats when I was in Japan.
Booking Flights and Hotels – How I Saved $11,902.00
As my motto goes, “You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Travel.” In my previous blog, I briefly wrote about my favorite point earning card – Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you’re interested in getting this card, you can click here to sign up (I get bonus points if you use my affiliate link) There are so many ways to earn points!
Two tools that helped me find award flights are: AwardHacker.com and AwardAce.com.
I thought it would be best to fly Business class using points for the long haul flights and pay with my credit card for budget airlines because it’s so cheap.
I wanted to experience Lunar New Year in Vietnam so that’s where I started. From there, I used google flights to see how much it would cost to go to the next city. Once you’re in Asia, flights are fairly cheap to hop around to other countries.
As far as hotels, I accumulated 20 free nights + a voucher totaling $2,046 (hotels.com.) They have a great rewards program. I used the free nights on cities that were a bit more expensive and paid with my credit card for the rest of the nights. My trip would’ve cost me $13,025 and I paid $1,138 + 202,500 Chase Ultimate Reward Points. Here is a detailed spreadsheet.
Things To Pack For A Long Trip
The key is traveling light right? I can definitely do that and wear the same dresses and leggings every other day but did I want to do that? NO!! I wanted to dress up and take nice pictures. My suitcase weighed about 22kg/48.5lbs when I left but as weeks went by, my suitcase lightened up (use of amenities made the weight go down)
- Universal Outlet with 4USB – $18.99- Very convenient with 4 USB ports.
- Conair Wattage Converter – $46.51- Best product ever especially if you don’t want to blow the fuse on your curling iron. I’ve never had a problem and you don’t have to worry trying to figure out which wattage to use because it adjusts accordingly.
- Traveling Clothesline – $8.99 – You’ll have to do laundry every couple days. You can hook this onto furniture or any nook you can find.
- Tide Sink Packets – $4.29 for a pack of 3 – Do your laundry in the sink.
- Mosquito Repellent – definite must. There are so many mosquitos especially in areas that are humid which was every country except Japan. I brought one bottle of repellent with DEET ($3.48) for when I was going to waterfalls and through rice fields and a natural one ($4.99) for everyday use. You can find a lot of cheap natural mosquito repellents in these countries.
- Sunscreen – the reason I listed this is because in Asia, most sunscreens sold in stores tend to have “whitening agents” because Asian people don’t like to get dark. Make sure to bring your own sunscreen.
- Waterproof Bag and Waterproof Cellphone Case – A set of 3 for $22.99 (20Liter Bag) If you’re going on any water adventures, this will come in handy and at times this was a must for me.
- Lightweight Travel Backpack – You can fold up really small and it barely takes any room in the suitcase. it’s also convenient if you have overpacked and need an extra bag to carry the extra weight.
- Luggage Scale – $9.87 – If you plan on flying any budget airline, they weigh your suitcase. Don’t get stuck paying extra baggage fees.
- Water shoes – $10 – I planned a couple waterfall hikes and some snorkeling – these came in handy because it was pretty slippery and I didn’t want to be stepping on any sharp rocks. I got mine at a local sports store and it cost about $10.
- Snorkel Gear – $10 – Unless you don’t mind renting snorkel gear, bring your own. I suggest at least brining your own mouth piece. I bought some cheap gear when I was vacationing in Hawaii.
- Bring meds such as Tylenol/Advil, Benadryl cream for mosquito bites, diarrhea medication (this is a must because you never know!)
Before You Travel
- Most important tip I can give you is – if you’re traveling with a controlled substance such as Xanax (schedule 4) YOU NEED A PRESCRIPTION. My friend told me that he had Xanax out of the packaging with no prescription and when Hong Kong customs found it, they put him in jail for 16 weeks. I did not know it was so serious in other countries. Please take a picture of the prescription that your doctor wrote you and keep the pills in the prescription bottle!!
- Print out your itineraries and/or make sure to have them on your phone. I encountered quite a few airports that asked to see your itinerary before stepping foot inside the building. TripIt app is a great app to have everything organized.
- Make a copy of your passport/id just in case you lose your passport
- Unlock your phone – T-mobile worked alright in all countries except Vietnam. It was the slowest in the Philippines. SIM cards are fairly cheap.
- Set up travel notices for all credit cards, ATM cards. Please note AMEX is the least accepted card in Asia. For the most part, I exchanged money because my Wells Fargo debit card charges me a $5 fee for every withdrawal. I found I saved more money by exchanging.
- Visit your general physician and get your TDAP shots
- Start taking probiotics a couple weeks before your trip – I love eating street food and I didn’t get sick once
- See what countries you need a visa for. In this case, I needed a visa for Vietnam.
- If you plan on renting a scooter or driving go-karts in Japan, you must get your International Driver’s License. It’s fairly simple to get. You can go to your local Triple A office and it will cost $20. More info here.
- Get Travel Insurance – you never know when it will come in handy. I went with Allianz and I got the Premium Plan with max coverage for only $158.
Apps To Download On Your Phone
- Skype – My number 1 app. This saved me so many times. First off you can create a Skype number. I had all my phone calls forwarded to a Skype number so I can answer phone calls anywhere and not get charged a roaming fee. You can make phone calls for super cheap. I think I pay around $8/month for this service. This is a must.
- Whatsapp – a lot of people in Asia use Whatsapp. This proved most useful when I booked private drivers and had to contact them. Whatsapp works when you have cell service and doesn’t cost anything. You can also call your friends free of charge if they have WhatsApp as well.
- TripIt – This is the best app to organize all your flights and hotel stays
- Transportation – I try to avoid taxis at all costs – I find them to be more expensive and I hate carrying cash on me.
- CityMapper – This app is to figure out which subways/buses to take. This worked best in Singapore.
- GoogleMaps – This is a must!
- Google Translate – This helped me a lot in countries that barely spoke English
- XE Currency – get up to date rates
- LoungeBuddy and Priority Pass – the Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with the priority pass. Make sure to get this apps so you can see how to access all these lounges for free! Free food and free drinks (including alcoholic drinks). In some lounges, they even offer free massages and shower rooms.