1. Free calls home
IF YOU are using the roaming service on your cellphone or calling home from an overseas hotel, it is going to cost you a fair bit of money.
You could hunt down shops selling phone cards that enable you to make international calls to certain countries at bargain rates.
Alternatively, if you are travelling with a computer or pocket PC, use skype, a free VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) software that enables you to talk to anyone else with the same software on their computers.
You can check for conditions and download the software at www.skype.com
2. Load and lock
SECURITY has been beefed up at most airports these days, and if you are flying to the United States, you will be told not to lock your bags as they are subject to random checks. Lock them, and they could be damaged during checks.
If you prefer not to travel with unlocked bags, buy luggage or locks that have either the Safe Skies or Travel Sentry logo.
The US Transportation Security Authority (TSA) has approved the use of these locks as most US airport Customs staff have equipment to unlock and relock them after inspecting a bag.
Samsonite sells Travel Sentry locks at $21 (padlock) and $27 (combination lock) each, as well as luggage with TSA-approved locks. Prices start at $450 for its Silhouette 9 range.
3. A shoe-in
AT SOME airport screening points, especially in the United States, you get to see a male stripshow of sorts. First, pockets are emptied. Then the belt comes off, and quite often the shoes, too.
To avoid such ignominy, do not wear belts with heavy metal buckles and studs. Leave footwear such as boots, anything with platform soles, athletic shoes and shoes with metal bits at home.
Wear shoes that are easy to slip in and out of and do not involve elaborate lacing or buckling.
4. Weight watchers
BUDGET airlines are often strict about onboard luggage and are quick to whip out the calculator when your check-in bag exceeds the 15-kg limit.
Sometimes, that nice piece of luggage with wide wheels and retractable handle can be a problem, given its weight of up to six kg.
In response to this, Samsonite has developed a new line of bags, called X'Lite, using synthetic materials that are stronger and 30 per cent lighter than anything available at the moment.
The new range is due for retail take-off in January next year.
5. Cutting coupons
SNIP out coupons and look out for tourist booklets that offer special deals for attractions and restaurants. Scan local newspapers and magazines that offer special prices and tips on where to dine and be entertained.
For those travelling to the US, Canada and Australia, The Entertainment Book offers a wealth of handsome offers.
Costing between US$25 (S$42) and US$45 each, depending on the city, you can choose from discounts on fine dining, fast food, cinema, theatre, sports events, resorts, hotel accommodation, even cruise ship and airline travel tickets.
Afterwards, you can give the book - and any unused discount coupons - to family and friends living in the city you are visiting.
6. Be watchful
A 2001 holiday to Bali taught Mr James Ng, 48, a regional director of a marketing services consultancy, an important lesson in being alert.
'On holiday, you are very happy and are only interested in getting out of the airport and doing something interesting. At the immigration counter, I heard the officer stamping something. But when I was leaving Bali, I realised it wasn't my passport he had stamped.'
After paying a fine of $50, Mr Ng and his family were allowed to depart.
Since then, Mr Ng, who travels a lot on business, makes sure his passport gets chopped.
'Very often, when you have a lot of chops, and some of them are not clear, you need to be sure what page it's on, especially when you are exiting the country,' he says.
7. Originals please
IF A friend had bought you that fake Rolex watch or Louis Vuitton knock-off and you think it will be a hoot to use it on your next trip to France or Italy, think again.
Customs officers of these European countries have been trained to spot fakes.
If you are nabbed carrying a fake, you could end up paying a fine amounting to three times the actual retail price of the authentic product.
So, that fake $50 Rolex could set you back $20,000.
8. Car rental strategies
WHILE it is tempting to rent that top-end BMW or Mercedes-Benz convertible because it is unaffordable in Singapore, do try to resist.
Get the smallest possible category of car that suits your needs. Otherwise, you are going to be paying a premium in terms of insurance cover and rental charges.
By opting for the most modest category, you stand a higher chance of getting upgraded if the car you asked for is not available.
And when you pick up the car, do not just hop in and drive off. Inspect it thoroughly. Mark out dents and spots outside, as well as stains or scratches on interior surfaces.
Make sure that all the accessories indicated are included before signing the paperwork.
Car hire companies will try and sell you too much insurance cover. Before buying, find out if you need everything being offered.
9. Translation central
WHEN venturing to non-English-speaking lands, a quick translation may be necessary to help you book a room online and not end up buying an entire building instead.
Try babelfish.altavista.com - which gives a range of translation options, from French, Portuguese and German to Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
10. Map it out
DO NOT look the tourist, complete with holiday togs, compass, bewildered looks and maps open. You can drop the street directory by downloading maps onto your handheld PDA.
Zagat To Go (software.zagat.com) provides restaurant and entertainment guides for the Palm OS and Pocket PC. You need to download the US$24.95 (S$42) software but it makes it easier to look up information on the go.
Visit (www.pocketgear.com) to find other useful handheld downloads, such as subway routes and the best way to get to your destination quickly.