[email protected]: How to vacation like a pro, travel more for less

SINGAPORE — Since restarting travel last year, Mr. Aaron Wong, pro-traveler and founder of the MileLion site, has visited Germany, Australia, South Korea, Thailand and more.

Mr. Wong is so familiar with the art of traveling smartly that his local travel hacking company, MileLion, shows more than 300,000 readers each month how to travel more for less and make sense of changing travel rules.

He spoke to Straits Times travel editor Lee Siew Hua about his pandemic travels and shared tips for making the most of vacations. The virtual talk, [email protected], a collaboration between The Straits Times and the National Library Board (NLB), was shared on ST’s Facebook page at 7 p.m. on April 29.

He recalls the trip he took last month with his father, who was traveling for the first time since the pandemic. They flew to Los Angeles to attend the Indian Wells Masters tennis tournament, where there was no mask mandate.

“It didn’t even occur to him to take his mask off. We’ve seen it in Singapore now too – even though you can take your mask off, people still keep it on. It will take some time to rewire your brain,” the 33-year-old said.

Mr Wong and Ms Lee also discussed the rise of digital nomads – travel enthusiasts who work and play in one destination for an extended period of time.

It’s a travel super-trend accentuated by the pandemic, Ms Lee observed, with digital nomads and “slowmads” spending more than 35% of their income at their destinations. Some tourist boards can divert budgets to these free spirits, who also supplement local job markets in a global talent crunch, she said.

Mr Wong joked: “If it’s one thing the pandemic has shown, it’s that office work is overrated.”

Currently, travel is expensive, but Mr. Wong uses a variety of means to accumulate his miles which can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays and other rewards.

He recommended knowing your credit cards well, taking advantage of sign-up bonuses and recurring offers, and using mile cards rather than cashback cards.

Research is important, he says.

Some countries are a little more confusing or expensive to travel to due to regulations, he says. Countries that require PCR tests, for example, will increase the globetrotting budget, especially for families. Other considerations include paperwork and clarity of protocols for those recovered from Covid-19.

He concluded that after not traveling for so long, “performance anxiety” is normal, but he is confident the collective jitters will subside over time.

“People go to the United States if they want to shop, people go to Australia for food. It’s like everything is on hiatus and now people are trying to come back.”

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