Common travel mistakes that Singaporeans make

You’ve been planning that dream vacay all year, painstakingly filling out your itinerary to the nines. Given how much effort you’ve exerted – not to mention the costs involved – you wanna make sure that everything goes smoothly. But even the best plans can go awry.

Missed flights aside, you may find yourself caught in a sticky situation when you have no access to local data, absentmindedly packing big bottles of liquids or Swiss army knives in your carry-on, or even failing to check emails from your airlines. To save yourself the grief of sabo-ed holiday plans, here are some common travel mistakes to avoid.

1. Going to the airport only 2 hours early during peak seasons

“Aiya, don’t need to go so early lah! So kiasu for what?” Sounds familiar? We all have that one friend or family member who detests heading out to the airport “too early.” As it turns out, there is plenty of merit to heading over to the airport significantly ahead of time – especially during peak travel seasons.

Going To The Airport Early

For example, if you’re flying out of certain European destinations during the summer, you’d want to be at the airport at least 3 hours in advance to join the check-in queue and ensure you make it onto your plane on time. And think about the possible traffic delays you may encounter en route to the airport as well, especially with cities notorious for jams.

Singapore’s pretty efficient in terms of immigration clearance and automated gates, but we can’t take this for granted and assume that the rest of the world also have such systems in place. Instead, you should always assume long queues are the norm and prep accordingly. 

2. Setting aside less than 2 hours’ gap for layover flights

Empty Plane SeatsImage credit: @yu_aviation via Instagram

Apart from being extra kiasu on your regular flights, you also want to be mindful of the amount of lead time you give your layover flights. This is especially the case for domestic flights, where delays are common. You don’t want to end up sprinting from one end of the terminal to the other – Amazing Race style – to catch your flight.

As a rule of thumb, give yourself enough lag time of at least 3-6 hours for your connecting flights. Yes, this may seem a little excessive, but it’ll save you the grief of missing your flight and having to rebook everything all over again, multiplying your airfare by 2.

3. Chucking your passport into your bag without protection

This goes without saying, but it still needs to be said: guard your passport with your life. And that means not simply chucking it into your bag without properly protecting it from the elements. 

Singapore Passports

One of our colleagues had a water bottle leak in her bag when her passport was wedged at the bottom of it. When she fished it out, it was hopelessly drenched. While she was able to return to Singapore, a subsequent attempt to travel to JB was blocked as her waterlogged passport had become invalid way before its expiry date.

Moral of the story? Waterproof your passport by sticking it in a zip-lock bag if you’re going to store it among liquids. Otherwise, getting a sturdy passport holder is advisable as well, to prevent accidental folds, crumples, or even tears.

4. Forgetting to apply for a transit visa

New Zealand HobbitScenic New Zealand is one of the destinations where you’d need to apply for a visa at least 3 business days ahead of arrival.
Image credit: @hobbitontours via Instagram

Before your next overseas expedition, check if you need to apply for a visa. This includes destinations where you’re just laying over for a short while before your connecting flight. So don’t neglect to get a transit visa for an applicable destination just ‘cause you’re not stepping out to explore the land forreal.

As Singaporeans, it’s easy for us to forget this important step, as our passports grant us visa-free travel to 195 countries. But for countries like the USA, Canada, and Australia, visas are an absolute must. When in doubt, check our list of countries where the Singapore passport requires a travel visa to enter.

5. Purchasing souvenirs that aren’t allowed on flights

Luggage Check-In

If your love language is giving gifts, you’d be all too familiar with the excitement of bringing home souvenirs to distribute to your loved ones. But this may be curtailed by baggage restrictions depending on where you land, as well as where you board.

For example, fish sauce is difficult to bring onboard flights under certain carriers. According to their baggage guidelines, it is classified as an “odorous item” that is restricted from hand-carry. It can still be packed in checked baggage, but it must strictly be stored in plastic bottles and sealed with tape. The lengths you’d have to go to for some authentic condiment goodness!

Australia WatersTo protect their biodiversity, Australia has tight regulations against bringing in foreign substances.
Image credit: @izu_brisbane via Instagram

On the other side of the hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand have stringent rules against bringing fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, or dairy products into their borders. This is to protect their local ecosystems from foreign contamination. So if you’re visiting a loved one living Down Under, it may be hard to bring them their fave local foods.

Even when it comes to certain ingredients in skincare products, you may find yourself in a pickle when traversing countries with stricter customs. For instance, several states in the US like Hawaii and the Virgin Islands ban non-biodegradable sunscreens to protect their coral reefs. Make sure to check the ingredients of your toiletries to prevent them from getting tossed.

6. Ignoring emails from airlines prior to trips

PSA: airlines don’t just flood your inbox with endless deals and promotions. Following your booking, your airline will update you with important announcements and other deets in the months and weeks leading up to your flight.

Using Phone Stock Image - Common Travel Mistakes

It’s thus important to ensure that you mark your airline as a priority sender to prevent any of their emails from slipping into the spam abyss.

If you’re flying budget, changes in timing are common. And in some cases, flights can even wind up cancelled entirely, or shifted to a later date. Flights can also be moved forward, so you should make it a point to check for confirmations several days leading up to the departure to ensure that the plane doesn’t take off without you on it.

7. Relying too much on data coverage & technology

Countryside Destinations - Common Travel Mistakes

Countryside destinations provide tranquillity and the most picturesque sights, but data connection might not be the most stable.

Mobile data makes the world go round, but this is generally only true so long as you stick to cities and other well-connected urban areas. It’s easy to take the widespread availability of data for granted, so it can be shocking to step into a remote area like the mountains or countryside and find yourself out of service.

If you’re ever planning to take paths less travelled, make sure you either download offline maps on your navigation apps or go the traditional route of bringing along paper maps or travel booklets. Maps aside, it’s also good to print out essential docs like your visas and flight itineraries in case you’re unable to access them online to flash on your phone.

8. Arriving at the wrong airport or terminal

It’s not uncommon for countries to have more than 1 international airport – right here in Singapore, we have Changi Airport and Seletar Airport

Airport - Common Travel Mistakes

If we take London as an example, there’s Heathrow, Gatwick, and Luton. Of the 3, Heathrow is the best option to book flights during peak season, while the other 2 aren’t as well-connected and can cause you to be trapped in traffic and miss your flights.

Make sure you double – or even triple – check your boarding pass to make sure that you go to the right airport. And don’t forget to get your terminal number right too. Unlike our national pride and joy, Changi Airport, terminals abroad may be spaced far apart. Apart from the time needed to travel between them, you don’t need the last-minute stress of figuring out the navigation.

9. Forgetting to change your credit card settings

Shopping For Shoes - Common Travel Mistakes

Credit cards are a fantastic method to make purchases on your vacation, but there’s a caveat: you must first change your settings to allow overseas use before you embark on your trips. Your bank may just block you if they flag your international transaction as suspicious.

The same rule applies for overseas withdrawals. Make sure you activate your card ahead of time to take the hassle out of your travels. Alternatively, you can consider using a multi-currency travel wallet that’s on standby for international usage at all times.

10. Planning your itinerary without taking weather into account

When planning your itineraries, your research shouldn’t start and end at finding listicles of exciting things to do. Check the weather of your destination during your travel dates, and keep the forecasts in mind when planning certain activities.

Rainy Weather - Common Travel Mistakes
Image credit: Chris Soh

If you’re headed to Bali, for instance, November to March is the rainy season, automatically crossing out all hiking, water park, and beach expeditions. Or if you want to travel to Taiwan, September is typically the monsoon season, meaning you’d have to be prepared for wet weather plans.

Also, since Singapore is warm all year round, you might not be equipped with the resilience to endure much colder temperatures – think anything below 16°C all the way to the sub-zero figures. Check all temperature forecasts and trip reviews beforehand, and invest in heavy-duty winter clothes if necessary – not just the regular jackets you wear in an air-con room.

Be prepared for your travels with the MyICA Mobile app

Overseas Placeholder - Common Travel Mistakes

Travelling shouldn’t be a stress fest. After all, the whole point of going on vacation is to get away from the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day, and set those nerves at ease. To make your travels even easier, make sure to download the MyICA Mobile app.

It’ll make your returns home to Singapore smoother, as you can submit your SG Arrival Card quickly and easily for yourself or the entire group that you’re travelling with. 

MyICA Mobile App SG Arrival Card - Common Travel Mistakes

Serial travel-holics don’t have to worry about painstakingly filling up their info manually each and every time they’re back on home soil. MyICA Mobile allows you to auto-populate your personal particulars, create profiles for your companions, and save travel groups for current and future travels.

Singapore IC - Common Travel Mistakes

Besides letting you settle your SG Arrival Card without a hitch, the app also serves as a one-stop hub for other services like passport, IC, and visit pass extension applications.

The MyICA Mobile app isn’t just for Singaporeans too. If you’re a foreigner, the app comes with a nifty “scan passport” feature where you can easily scan your passport and fill up your SG Arrival Card before touching down in Singapore. Time to cruise right through immigration like a boss.

Ready to set off on your next overseas adventure? Download the MyICA Mobile app, available for both Apple and Android devices, and rest easy knowing that immigration clearance will be a breeze.

Download the MyICA Mobile app here

This post was brought to you by ICA.

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