Travelling in the United States of America (USA) has become more affordable for Singaporeans these days especially with the exchange rates in our favor. However, with the right preparations, we have found a few more ways to save more money and at the same time make our recent trip to the USA West Coast i.e. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco, much more convenient.
Here’s a quick compilation of 5 simple pre-trip preparation you can do to make your trip to the USA convenient and affordable:
Tip Number 1: Save Time and Money with Open-Jaw Flights to and fro US and Internal US Flights with CheapTickets.sg
One of the most significant ways to save money is through finding the most efficient way to fly into and out of the States and getting around within the States. Flight planning is one of the most time-consuming part in planning for our USA trip. As we are not doing any self-drive during the trip, it was important for us to find the most affordable way to fly from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and then from Las Vegas to San Francisco. This would mean spending a lot of time browsing through different airlines’ sites to find out the best fares and flight timings.
CheapTickets.sg offered the convenience of a one-stop in comparing flights from different airlines e.g. Cathay, Singapore Airlines, Korea Air for our journey to and fro the States. The flight comparison engine is one of the most updated one compared to other similar sites, taking into account each airline’s promotional fares. CheapTickets.sg also offers the flexibility of selecting open-jaw flights at affordable prices. Open-Jaw refers to us flying into the States at Los Angeles and flying out from another city i.e. San Francisco. At one glance, we were able to compare across all the airlines offering such open-jaw flights and their respective prices.
What really helped us was that CheapTickets.sg site’s ability to pull together information on US airlines to plan our flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and from Las Vegas to San Francisco. While this is not a complete list of airlines on offer for these routes, it was adequate due to availability of quotes from the major airlines e.g. United, American Airlines, Delta and jetBlue Airways.
We really appreciated the time savings and convenience of CheapTickets.sg site’s multi-stop trip functionality to plan and book international and internal US flights in just 1 booking. We also achieved cost savings as we cut down on the transaction and credit fees that could be separately charged with each booking at different airlines’ website. We just have to make a single payment for all our flights to and fro the States and within the States.
Check out CheapTicket.sg Facebook for contests and giveaways e.g. the ‘Be Smart, Be Cheap‘ contest where CheapTickets.sg is giving away2 flights to Bangkok to their facebook fans who share with them their trips taken and their tips on how to save money.
Tip Number 2: Enjoy Further Shopping Discounts at Premium Outlet Malls
Outlet Malls in the States are well-known for offering branded products e.g. Coach, Kenneth Cole, Kate Spade at very affordable discounted prices. For example, a Coach bag which would have cost about S$500-600, can be purchased for less than US$150 at the Las Vegas North Premium Outlet Mall. If you are visiting one of the “Premium Outlets”, you can sign up for a VIP Club membership (free!) at www.premiumoutlets.com where you will receive an online voucher to redeem for a VIP Coupon book at the Premium Outlet of your choice (available at information centre).
This VIP Coupon book provides a whole list of discounts for various shops in the outlet mall and these discounts are usually on top of the already steeply discounted prices offered by the shops. For example, at GAP Outlet Las Vegas North, you can enjoy 10% off purchase of US$75 or more and 10% off any one item at Nine West Outlet. If you are hungry after a whole day of shopping, there are also discounts on food and drinks offered by the VIP Coupon book e.g. Subway 10% off entire purchase.
Registration takes only 2-3 minutes and on top of the VIP Coupon book, you will also receive a separate stack of discount vouchers for various brands in the outlet.
Tip Number 3: Keep in Touch with T-Mobile No-Contract Broadband On The Go
Most hotels in the States do not offer complimentary Wi-Fi with the room and can charge upwards of 20 USD for 24 hours of access with cap on how much data you can use. Phone and Internet roaming charges are also crazy. Luckily, we found an affordable and convenient to get internet on the go with no-contract mobile broadband plans offered by local telco companies. As of May 2012, T-Mobile offers one of the most value for money plan – at just 25 USD, you get a data access limit of 3GB for a period of 1 month. If you just need to check emails, facebook, whatsapp and the occasional Skype call, this is more than enough. Perfect for keeping in touch with your family e.g. providing real-time Whatsapp updates on your bargain buys at the outlet malls (do take note of time difference between US and Singapore – while you are happily shopping away at 2pm, it is 2am back home!).
Prior to your trip, check out the best plans to sign up for and identify the T-Mobile, AT&T (depending on the plan you need) store nearest to your hotel so that you can pick one up as soon as you arrive.
Tip Number 4: Prepare Loose Change (US$1, US$5) for Ease of Tipping
Be aware of the tipping culture in USA; be it the taxi driver, waitress, bellhop, doorman – all would be expecting a tip for providing their service. Don’t get caught in embarrassing situations where you only have a 100 USD note and you can’t tip the 1-2 USD to the bellhop – no change is given for your tips! So prepare more small notes e.g. 1 USD or 5 USD just in case. Request for small notes from your moneychanger when you exchange your Sing dollars to US dollars.
Tip Number 5: Enjoy Discounted Tours, Shows with Online Promo Codes
When you make reservations online at US-based websites, there are usually boxes prompting you to provide promo codes (if you have it). Do some research before booking for such promo codes. For example, Viator offers a 5% discount on all tours and activities booked on the site if you can find their promo code at their Google Plus account (offer ends 31 May 2012). In this case, we did a quick search and found the promo code GPSAVE for an instant 5% discount (savings of over US$50 for us!).
Some companies also offer promo codes when you like their Facebook page and sign up for their mailing list so do browse around their sites for more of such deals. Also check out retailmenot.com or fatwallet.com for a compilation of promo codes by company – you might just be able to find some great deals and score some savings.