Today I applied half day to go to NATAS Travel Fair to book a tour package. Angie and I had already decided to head for Hokkaido to check out the beauty (or lack) of North Japan. October is probably not the most scenic time to go: it neither is the flower season nor the Winter season. But Angie wanna go to a temperate country, and I have, as usual, no strong opinions on where we should tour.
We drove to Singapore Expo, and had a hard time finding a parking lot. Never fails to amaze me the number of Singaporeans who don’t work during office hours, or apply leave to sign up a tour package in order to utilise more leave.
The more shocking part is yet to come.
We strolled to Hall 4, saw the queue to enter into the travel fair. We followed the queue, and it led us to the end of Hall 6. Anyone who’ve been to Singapore Expo will know how big the place is. The queue went from the end of Hall4 to the end of Hall 6. Walking alone takes about 5 minutes, letting alone queuing.
We struggled for a moment, and decided to give up on entering the Hall. Fortunately, there was also a Watson Warehouse Sale at Hall 3, so we popped by and bought some stuff. Then we bought a drink at Burger King and sat there for a moment. We saw the queue move quite smoothly and rethought our decision. Then I told her I’d go and queue up, and if I reached where Burger King was within 15 minutes, we’ll go into NATAS.
It took me less than 5 to achieve that.
Angie then joined me on the queue.
Then the queue seemed to stop.
After 15 minutes or so, we finally got into the Hall. But more queue to come – admission fee. There were 2 queues: pay by cash or MasterCard. Pay by MasterCard and enjoy $1 off, so we went for the MasterCard queue.
OK finally we’re in. We headed straight to the Big Players. First stop, ASA Holidays. We got a queue number and was served after 4 numbers. We found that the 7-day Hokkaido package is actually 4 days at Hokkaido tour and 2 days at Narita. And the package turned out to be over S$2800.
Then we checked out CTC Holidays. The tour itinerary is better, and we get options of a 6D6N by JAL or 7D6N Northwest Airlines. With JAL, we fly on midnight, arrive Narita in the morning, and transfer to Hokkaido. With NW, we fly in the morning, arrive Narita in the afternoon, stay overnight, next day transfer to Hokkaido, thus the additional day. Ironically, NW package is cheaper at below S$2500.
We proceeded to check out SA Tours. We were presented with an itinerary that is generic from Oct to March, and seemed to showcase the Winter season more. Also, the day flight is more expensive than the overnight flight, and the quoted package is about S$2600.
We decided to go for CTC because:
1. It’s the cheapest.
2. We liked the itinerary a little better.
3. Our previous Japan tour is also with CTC.
4. The sales guy is an experienced tour leader to Hokkaido which added to the convincing factor.
In order to enjoy freebies from the credit card companies, we paid $4000 for the deposit. Competition among the card companies is tight, but I decided to pay by UOB and got the Philips DVD player. It’s not exactly a high-end model, so I really wondered if it’s really more expensive than the luggage bag that is redeemable with just $2000. After redeeming it, I then realised that I am not eligible to go for the lucky dip (every $800 spend) once I redeemed the gifts. I walked away wondering if I could have won a better item from the dip. Then again, I was never the kind with luck. Last Sunday I spent enough at Centrepoint to earn a lucky dip and got myself some hair salon discount voucher.
Well I guess the UOB offer is still better than OCBC, which apparently gave away some cooker for a $4000 spend. But I think Citibank’s the best: a 3-piece breakfast set consisting of a coffee-maker, toaster and juicer. Looks expensive, though I still prefer the DVD player for its practicality.
Truthfully-speaking, we are not well-prepared for this purchase. On hindsight, we should have done more research on the right places to visit in Hokkaido, as well as comparing the freebies of each credit card companies.
But after all that we had gone through, I’m glad we got ourselves a good deal and will be looking forward to see what Hokkaido has to offer.