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Travel & Holiday

Pack your bags

A variety of last-minute holiday deals are up for grabs with travel agencies offering extra perks and hotel stays
The Straits Times - November 8, 2011
By: Huang Huifen
| More
Pack your bags Sun Moon Lake in Taichung

If you have not yet made your year-end holiday travel plans, fret not. Travel agencies, airlines and hotels are still dangling deals of up to 50 per cent off to lure last-minute tourists.

But the catch is: You cannot be picky about the dates you want to travel on because these deals are pegged to scheduled departures.

Ms Alicia Seah, CTC Travel's senior vice-president of marketing and public relations, says that there are still some leftover seats on flights to destinations such as Taiwan, Korea and Hokkaido because airlines have increased the number of flights to these places due to higher demand this year.

She says the stronger demand is due to many Singaporeans putting their travel plans on hold earlier in the year because of the Japan earthquake in March and the General Election in May. As a result, they rushed to book their year-end trips earlier in July instead of August, which is when holiday packages are usually booked.

CTC has about 15 per cent of the pre-booked seats left to the destinations mentioned above. These seats were previously sold as part of packaged tours, says Ms Seah. 'With just one month before the year-end bookings close, we have repackaged the existing seats as part of free-and-easy packages pegged to scheduled departures.'

Those who book these free-and-easy packages can still enjoy discounted airfares of up to 20 per cent off published rates, plus extra perks such as free hotel stays, rail passes or discounted entry fees to theme parks thrown in to sweeten the deal.

It is a similar situation at Chan Brothers Travel, where pent-up anticipation for year-end travel has driven demand to popular destinations such as China, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and Europe by 20 per cent, says its marketing communications manager Michelle Yin.

Though travellers may have to pay about 20 per cent more compared to what early birds paid for their trips if they book with Chan Brothers now, Ms Yin says her agency has some good deals available because its airline and hotel partners are still offering deals of up to 50 per cent off current rates.

In some cases, you may end up paying the same as the early birds who booked their holidays a few months ago.

STA Travel's sales and marketing manager Timothy Su says: 'For the Europe tour operators, they may offer discounts of up to 20 per cent to fill up the tour dates that are not so popular because they start midweek instead of the weekends or the start of the week. This usually happens four to eight weeks prior to the departure date. But to enjoy the discount, you have to be really flexible with your schedule,' he says.

So with time running out, Life! susses out 15 of the best last-minute deals available.

DISCOUNTED TAIWAN DEALS

8D6N Rhythm Of Taiwan at up to $200 off

Travel agency: SA Tours, call 6535-8911

What: Visit Taipei, Kaoshiung, Taichung and Nantou, where the scenic Sun Moon Lake is.

Price: The rate before discount starts from $1,358 a person. Includes flights on China Airlines, accommodation in five-star hotels, meals, tours and transport.

Departure date: Nov 23

Book by: Nov 11

7D Endless Fun In Taiwan at up to $760 off per couple

Travel agency: ASA Holidays, call 6303-5303

What: Highlights of the tour include visits to Taipei's hip shopping district Ximending, a hot springs resort in Taitung and the Leo Foo Village Theme Park, an amusement park with rollercoasters, petting zoos and bird parks in Hsinchu.

Price: The discounted rate costs from $1,188 a person. Includes stays in five-star hotels, meals, tours and transport.

Depature dates: Nov 26 and Nov 28

Book by: While vacancies last

EUROPE LAND PACKAGE

18D trip at £200 off

Travel agency: STA Travel, call 6737-7188 or e-mail sales@statravel.com.sg

What: This 18-day land package covers the main sights in London, Paris, the Swiss Alps, Florence, Rome and Venice in Italy, Salzburg in Austria, Prague, Berlin and Amsterdam. Highlights include a walking tour of Rome's archaeological marvels and a bicycle tour in Amsterdam.

Price: The discounted rate costs about £987 (S$2,005). Includes accommodation in a range of mid-range hostels, hotels and bungalows, tours, transport by coach, daily breakfast and most meals.

Departure dates: Nov 19, Dec 7

Book by: Nov 12 for Nov 19 departure and two weeks before departure for Dec 7 tour

ONE-FOR-ONE DEAL IN CHINA

10D Jiangnan and Shanghai shopping spree

Travel agency: Chan Brothers Travel, call 6438-8880

What: This 10-day shopping spree in Jiangnan and Shanghai includes visits to a silk factory in Suzhou, Meijiawu Tea Culture Village for the famous longjing tea in Hangzhou, Zisha Teapot Factory for clay teapots used to brew tea such as oolong, and Taihu Pearl Culture Factory for its exquisite pearls in Wuxi.

Price: From $1,298 for two persons. This package includes airfare, accommodation in a range of four- to five-star hotels, meals, transport and tours.

Departure dates: Nov 25, Dec 2, 8, 9, 16 and 23

Book by: While vacancies last

TWO NIGHTS FREE IN MAURITIUS

2N Mauritius and $500 off 10D South Africa tour

Travel agency: Five Stars Tour, call 6533-5555 or e-mail enquiry@fivestarsonline.com

What: This 10-day Discover South Africa and Garden Route Go! Go! Go! tour is led by celebrity guide, actor Darren Lim. Travellers get to stay two nights for free on the island of Mauritius, off the African continent and famous for its stunning beaches. Other highlights of the South African tour include a visit to the Tsitsikamma National Park, a coastal reserve home to marine flora and fauna, the famous Table Mountain in Cape Townand activities such as watching African penguins in Boulders Beach near Table Mountainand whale and dolphin watching on Plettenberg Bay.

Price: From $3,188 (usual price: $3,688). Includes airfare, accommodation, tours, meals and transport.

Departure date: Nov 17

Book by: Nov 10

LAOS DEAL

8D Laos package at $200 off

Travel agency: Universal Travel Corporation, call 6535-5577

What: The travel agency is offering this package to mark Lao Airlines' launch of a direct thrice-weekly Vientiane-to-Singapore flight from Nov 24. Highlights of the tour include visits to the Unesco World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, Xiang Khouang to view the Plain of Jars, an archaeological site containing thousands of jars dating back to the Iron Age, and Vientiane, the capital of Laos, where you will visit temples such as the Luang Shrine.

Price: From $1,599 a person based on a twin-sharing basis. Includes airfare, accommodation in a range of three- to four-star hotels, tours and most meals.

Departure dates: From Nov 27 to Jan 29

Book by: Nov 24

GOLD COAST SPECIAL

Free 1N stay and special-rate airfare to Gold Coast and Brisbane

Travel agency: CTC Travel, call 6536-3345/ 6538-8533 or e-mail enquiry@ctc.com.sg

What: Take advantage of the travel agency's special rates on Singapore Airlines to Gold Coast and Brisbane. You will also enjoy a free one-night hotel stay near the city area. Gold Coast is famous for its numerous beaches such as Surfers Paradise. In Brisbane, engage in outdoor activities such as hiking in Boondall Wetlands Reserve, Brisbane's largest wetlands.

Price: From $949 a person, based on a twin-sharing basis.

Departure dates: Nov 20, Dec 4, 11, 18 and 25

Book by: Two weeks before departure

KOREAN ESCAPADE

4D3N flight and hotel package

What: Expedia's Happy Holidays package includes return airfare wtih long-haul budget airline AirAsia X and accommodation in mid-range hotels in Seoul. Hotels to choose from include the 235-room The Lexington Hotel Yoido in the city centre, 50-room Hotel New Prince in Bucheon, a cultural city near Seoul and home to attractions such as Aiins World, a theme park which recreates miniature attractions around the world.

Price: From $900 a person

To book: Go to Expedia.com.sg

Booking period: Nov 14 to Dec 5

Travel period: Nov 14 to March 31

BALI GETAWAY

3D2N Garuda getaway

What: Choose to stay at hotels such as boutique resort Alila Ubud Bali, a hillside retreat in Ubud, the five-star Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort perched on a cliff and the hip Hard Rock Hotel Bali. Price: From $620 a person for Hard Rock Hotel Bali; from $820 a person at Alila Ubud Bali, with 60-minute massage for two; from $800 a person for Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort, which includes a golf session or a two-hour spa treatment. The price includes return airfare and two-night accommodation.

Book and travel by: March 31

To book: Call 6250-2888 or e-mail sin-reservation@garudaindonesia.com.sg

Hong Kong Disneyland package with Cathay Pacific

What: Cathay Pacific has a Hong Kong Disneyland Magic In The Air package which includes return economy tickets on Cathay Pacific, accommodation, one-day park ticket which costs HK$399 (S$65) an adult and HK$285 a child aged below 12, and return airport transfers. Guests who stay in Hong Kong Disneyland's two hotels - Disney's Hollywood Hotel and Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel - will enjoy an upgrade to a two-day ticket.

Price: From $748 a person, for a minimum of three people.

To book: Go to www.cathaypacific.com/sg

Book by: Dec 6

Travel by: Dec 14

Tokyo Disney Resort family package

Travel agency: CTC Travel, call 6536-3345/6538-8533 or email enquiry@ctc.com.sg

What: Take advantage of CTC Travel's discounted airfare to Tokyo by booking its 4N Tokyo Disney Family Fun package. Includes hotel stay in Tokyo Disney Resort and entrance tickets to Disneyland and DisneySea.

Price: From $779 a person

Travel by: March 31

Book by: Dec 28

HOTELS AND RESORTS

Durian feast at The Dusun, Negeri Sembilan

What: Durian lovers will be in for a treat at The Dusun, a resort in a durian orchard where guests are free to pick durians. December is typically the durian season. Accommodation is in three Malay-style houses on stilts overlooking the lush Berembun Forest Reserve. The houses take between two and five guests and can include kitchens and barbeque pits.

Price: Stay for three weeknights at The Dusun and enjoy a discounted rate. Depending on which house you choose, discounted prices range from RM750 to RM1,800. Price includes daily breakfast. Valid for stay now till Dec 23.

To book: Call +60-012-616-2585, or visit www.thedusun.com.my

Up to 33 per cent off Hilton properties

What: The Hilton Worldwide group is offering The December Sale promotion where guests can enjoy discounts of up to 33 per cent off stays at its hotels and resorts worldwide. Hilton HHonours members will also receive a bonus of 1,000 points for each completed stay, which can be accumulated to redeem rewards such as free hotel stays.

To book: Go to www1.hilton.com

Book by: Nov 25 to Jan 1

Duration of stay: Dec 8 to Jan 8

CRUISES

Royal Caribbean Cruises

What: Celebrate Christmas on the seas onboard Royal Caribbean Cruises' six-night Christmas cruise to Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Phuket. Two children aged 12 and below will travel for free with two adults, which adds up to savings of up to $2,700.

Price: From $4,078 for two adults and one child for an oceanview cabin.

To book: Call 6305-0033

Book by: Nov 30

Departure date: Dec 22

Star Cruises

What: Children will be entertained on the SuperStar Virgo's Nickelodeon SpongeBob At Sea cruises. Two children aged 12 and below travel for free with two adults.

Prices: From $1,352 for a family of four on a 2N Malacca/Kuala Lumpur cruise departing on Wednesdays (usual price: $1,992); from $1,732 for a weekend cruise departing on Friday (usual price: $2,512); from $2,298 for a 3N Penang/Phuket cruise departing on Sundays (usual price: $3,308). Kids must apply for the $10 StarKids Club membership.

To book: Call 6223-0002 or go to www.starcruises.com/spongebob

Book by: While vacancies last

Departure dates: From Nov 18 to Dec 21

AIRFARES

Tiger Airways flights up to 15 per cent off

What: For those planning a short getaway, Tiger Airways is offering discounts of up to 15 per cent on airfares to destinations such as Bangkok, Guangzhou and its two new destinations of Cebu and Davao in the Philippines. As a guide, a one-way ticket to Bangkok before discount starts from $62, while a one-way ticket to Cebu costs from $67 before discount.

Travel period: From Nov 17

Booking period: Tomorrow to Nov 16

To book: Go to www.tigerairways.com

$200 off Qatar Airways flights to Europe and United States

What: It is not impossible to plan a last-minute trip to Europe or the United States if you take advantage of Zuji's Qatar Airways Special sale. Save at least $200 on airfares to destinations such as Paris, London, Milan, Athens, Rome, Frankfurt and New York. Prices start from $941 for a return economy-class ticket.

Travel period: By March 31

Booking period: By Nov 30

To book: Go to www.zuji.com.sg

 

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