While travelling overseas typically requires a fair bit of time spent on booking flights, planning an itinerary and getting all the required travel documents in order, sometimes life calls for a spontaneous adventure. With 2023 drawing to a close and the December holidays fast approaching, many South Africans may be considering treating themselves to a last-minute escape. With the right approach and some simple steps, you can plan a quick getaway without breaking the bank or compromising on having the best experience possible.
This is the opinion of Sadudee Sangnil, Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for UK, Ireland and South Africa, who says that the three most essential factors to consider when planning a last-minute trip are accessibility, flexibility and affordability. Ahead of the end-of-year rush, she has some practical tips for travellers on how to make the most of a spontaneous travel experience.
1. Be spontaneous. But keep it seamless.
As Sangnil explains, the first most important aspect to consider relates to ease of access to the country you have in mind, and any administrative issues that may need to be tackled before going ahead with formal planning. This is because some of the most common bugbears that stand in the way of a seamless travel experience involves regulations and requirements such as visas.
It’s easy to understand why visa free destinations are therefore the holy grail of last-minute holidays. The good news is that South African citizens are allowed to stay in Thailand for up to 30 days if entering the country via an international airport.
Before making any bookings however, travellers need to check that their current passport is valid for at least 6 months following their intended departure date. They should also have proof of their ability to cover their living expenses for the duration of stay in Thailand i.e. traveller’s cheque or cash equivalent to 20,000 Baht per person and 40,000 Baht per family. This may be checked at the respective port of entry upon arrival in Thailand.
2. Flexible and budget-friendly
Next on the list of priorities is flexibility. Booking flights and accommodation as far ahead as possible is highly recommended, but when you don’t have the luxury of time, there are a few simple hacks that could help you save on some spontaneous time off.
Sangnil recommends being as flexible as possible around the dates of departure and arrival. Flight bookings made on the weekend typically cost far more than trips booked on weekdays. Furthermore, making a booking for a flight that leaves during off-peak hours can also shave a few rands off your flight booking.
Another way to save on the cost of your flights is to be flexible around your first point of arrival. You may find when booking a flight to Thailand for example, that flying to a major city like Bangkok may work out cheaper than flying to an airport in an outlying area. Once you’ve found the most cost-effective airport to land at, you’ll be able to plan your activities from that point onwards.
3. How to keep your adventure affordable
Short-notice getaways can prove expensive, especially when it comes to planning an itinerary. One way to avoid spending too much money on activities is to book special promotional packages that offer bundle deals or pre-arranged itineraries that will allow you to have the most fun-filled experience without paying a higher rate. Some of these can be easily found on travel websites as well as platforms tailored for South African travellers such as Fan Club Thailand to experience the best each country has to offer.
As Sangnil explains, “there are several tour operators in South Africa who have explored the country extensively and can offer packaged travel experiences that capture all the best sights and sounds, while keeping the individual costs from adding up.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, some of the package deals to look out for include travelling through urban areas in a tuk tuk, participating in an authentic Thai cooking class, visiting some of the country’s most popular national parks, seeing Thailand’s biggest temples and snorkeling. Opting for tour packages that can tick a few of these boxes at once, could save you quite a bit on your activity budget, so you can have the most memorable experience while managing the
Also see: Avoid overpacking this holiday