How I spent below 900 SGD (including air tickets) on a 5D4N trip to Hokkaido
Do take note that this is probably not your typical ski trip to Hokkaido because that will definitely cost you more than 900 SGD. I went on this trip also because of sale tickets, and had limited days in which I can fly to Hokkaido direct. Technically, I only had roughly 3.5 days in Hokkaido due to the restricted flight times.
Breakdown of a 5D4N trip to Hokkaido from Singapore:
Accommodation (APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae, 4 nights, room for two): 308.69/2 = $154.35
Travel Insurance (DBS Traveller Shield): $31.50
Transportation & Food & Shopping: $480
Starhub Prepaid Happy Travel SIM card: $15
How to score cheap flights?
1. Definitely look at low cost carriers (Jetstar, Scoot, Air Asia) if you want to reduce cost for your travels.
The rule of thumb when travelling to nearby countries (below 5 hours) is to book low cost carriers. For flights below 5 hours, you probably wouldn't need the amenities and services that full fledge carriers provide (meals, drinks, entertainment). Instead, bring your own bottle, sneak in a chocolate bar or two, and bring a book or your tablet with downloaded netflix shows for entertainment.
But this time, it was an exception! Scoot had direct flights to Hokkaido! (#notsponsored)
I have always wanted to visit Hokkaido but was deterred by the trouble to get there: Transits in Tokyo or other Asian destinations which meant that my trip to Hokkaido needs to be a longer one to make the time in the air worth it. At the same time, comparing prices of tickets between Asian countries (Japan / South Korea) and European destinations during the peak December travel season, the SGD 200 to 300 difference* in air ticket prices to Europe always seem more appealing! *Comparing full-fledge carriers So I always head to Europe for my month-long December travel because it makes more sense that way.
But who can say no to $200 fares for a DIRECT flight to Hokkaido? (For comparison, this meant that it is only about $50 more for return flight tickets to Bangkok)
2. Know WHEN there will be sale fares!
Hokkaido wasn't in our plans as we have already decided to take a 10-day trip to South Korea this year end (will be updating that very soon!) but I chanced upon a sale fare on Scoot that will take us DIRECT to New Chitose Airport for $204.10 (Scoot's friends and family sale). Although they no longer have this sale, you can still get round trip tickets to Hokkaido for $380. We then decided three weeks before the departure date to YOLO and book the tickets!
Otherwise, try your luck with their weekly sale fares:
Scoot's Take-off Tuesday
Jetstar's Friday Fare Frenzy
Or sign up for their newsletter for Black Friday Deals, or any other sales and promotions that they have. If you have flexible travel dates and do not mind travelling under short notice, the first flight to a new destination usually has insane deals! To find out more about this, sign up for airlines newsletters or simply read the news!
- Swiss Air fares from Singapore to Zurich cost about 700 SGD
- Norwegian Air fares from Singapore to Norway cost about 700 SGD
- Scoot Air fares from Singapore to Hawaii cost about 500 SGD
* Do note that these fares are no longer available!
3. When paying for Low Cost Carriers' flights tickets, choose to use the offline payment methods (e.g. AXS machines) as this would mean you pay less processing fee.
Scoot: AXS processing fee ($5) vs Credit card processing fee ($20) for return tickets
Jetstar: Singpost processing fee ($3) vs Credit card processing fee ($16) for return tickets
Air Asia: Debit card processing fee ($4) vs Credit card processing fee ($16) for return tickets
This makes a huge difference when purchasing cheap tickets as $20 for a $200 ticket is a 10% markup! But if you really have to pay by credit cards (e.g. sale fares sometimes do not allow you to pay via the offline means), choose one that you can also get rebates or air miles!
4. Travel with ONE carry-on bag
As much as you can, travel with only one carry-on bag. It makes more financial sense and it definitely helps you to save time as well when you do not have to wait for your check-in bag at the conveyor belt. (For more benefits of travelling with one carry-on bag, read: 5 advantages to travelling with only one luggage)
It is definitely possible to head to winter countries or even for a month-long European / Scandinavian / USA trip with just ONE luggage. We did it, and so can you!
5. Refrain from including food, seat selections, and other extras to get the best deal.
What we noticed for Scoot flights is that they serve meals right after the seatbelt signs go off. We felt that it defeats the purpose of adding in-flight meals as most travellers would likely have their meal right before boarding. Instead, even though it may be more expensive to do so, you can decide when you want to eat when you purchase the food during the flight itself.
Since the flight was 6 hours long, we had no choice but to order food mid-way during their flight. Sometimes, cup noodles also may be more yummy than the preordered food (#justsaying). We managed to eat lots of junk food during our 8 hour flight back and avoided ordering anything on the flight, and I must say that the onigiris, chips and chocolates really saved us!
Do however take note that you have to do this secretly because you technically aren't allowed to bring your own food up the plane.
For seat selections, we have learnt that you should still be able to get seats with your group even though you have not made a prior booking. This could either be through requesting it during check-in, or to make swaps with travellers on the flight itself. We have yet to face problems with this so far and not paying for seats can help you save tens of dollars.
Even though there were so many times when I was tempted to upgrade my seat to business (for an extra $80) on the flight, DO NOT FALL FOR THIS! For a $200 flight, paying $80 for a one way upgrade = 40% markup. With this in mind, I managed to suppress my urge to call the flight attendant for an upgrade.
How to get inexpensive accommodation?
For accommodations, I always use Booking.com. As compared to agoda, I prefer Booking.com for the ease of using the website, and it doesn't have as much popups. Agoda often also does not show you the price of the taxes until the payment page.
But one additional step that I always do is to check back the original website of the hotel that I am about to book, sometimes, just sometimes, it may be cheaper than Booking.com itself.
For this trip, we stayed at APA Hotel Sapporo Susukino Ekimae which was a superb location! It is located right outside a subway station and is close to Susukino where many restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options opened till late. This helped given the limited number of days we spent there, as we managed to cover many restaurants and still be able to walk back to our hotel past midnight.
I usually pick hotels near all the action when I visit the city for the first time. Being near a subway station also helps! As a guide, try to find hotels below 100 SGD per room per night (price varies according to cities) as you won't be spending much time in the hotel apart from sleeping each night.
Some travellers also like Airbnb for a more authentic stay, but do note of additional charges (e.g. cleaning fees, late check-in fees) that some properties may have. Also, staying in a hotel means that you do not have to bring all your toiletries and towels (less items to pack in your luggage!) and that you get clean towels and sheets every day!
Is travel insurance needed?
YES! I would say that travel insurance grants you a piece of mind, especially for unexpected incidents (e.g. flight delays, lost luggage, etc). DBS Traveller Shield is provided by MSIG which is an inexpensive insurance that you can get for your travel. You can purchase it online anytime BEFORE you leave Singapore. So far, I have not needed to claim any insurance yet so for the claiming processes, I am not the right person to recommend. But I like the ease of purchasing the insurance.
Other fuss-free ways is to pay for the insurance provided by the airline. I have tried this before and it is fuss-free as I only need to pay one company, once.
How to save on data?
Starhub Prepaid Travel Sim Card
If you are not a Starhub user, we do recommend getting the Starhub Prepaid Travel Sim Card. For $15, it comes pre-loaded with $18 credit, and free 5-days of unlimited 3G usage in Singapore. It is also valid for 180 days.
With the $18 credit, you can then add the Happy Roam Data Roaming Service. For short trips, we recommend the $7 for 1GB plan (7 days), and for long trips, $15 for 2.4GB (30 days). We got the 2.4GB plan and it was able to use the 2.4GB over our travels across Asia in 3 weeks.
For heavy users, you can also get the $32 Sim card (which comes with a 10-day 2GB data roaming), or the $50 Sim card (which comes with a 30-day 5GB data roaming). You can then add on another 3.6GB using your $20 credit.
We found that this option is much cheaper than if you were to get a SIM card in Japan itself. Also, using the wifi egg sometimes can be quite a hassle if its just for one person.
** Do note that you should first download the app and get the Starhub Profile to use the data roaming with the SIM card.
Starhub Data Travel
If you are a Starhub user, we recommend just getting the data travel. The benefits include not having to change out your Sim Card and it is fuss free. Just dial *100*54830# or enable it via the Starhub app. It costs $15 for 2GB, or $20 for 3GB. Both are valid for 30 days.
We found that only Starhub had data travel that made sense. Being a Singtel user, enabling data roaming add-on packs in Japan meant that I had to pay $20 for 1GB.
4G Wifi Device
An alternative is to purchase a 4G Wifi Device and pick it up at Chitose Airport. Wifi Devices are great especially for those travelling in a group. You can share the costs and you don't have to switch off the SIM card on your phones! You can order your 4G Wifi Device online ($6.10 SGD per day).
How to save on transportation and food?
When I travel, I usually do not try to scrimp and save on transportation, and especially food! I will use what I've saved through booking the flights and hotels here! #priorities
However, I will still try to research for tourist cards that provide slightly cheaper transportation for tourists. To find out more about getting around Sapporo, read our Hokkaido (Sapporo / Otaru) Travel Guide.
If you're wondering what to eat in Sapporo, read our 7 foods that you absolutely have to eat in Sapporo. For what to do in three days, read our 22 things to do in Sapporo where we also have a suggested itinerary. For a day trip, consider visiting snowy Otaru!
There you go! This is how we managed to visit Hokkaido below a budget of SGD 900. If given more time, and more finances, we will definitely want to try out ClubMed and hire a driver to visit the Blue Pond and the waterfalls during our next trip! Till then, let's all hope for more SALE FARES!