Tips for a good holiday from a travel veteran

Tips for a good holiday from a travel veteran

Robin Yap at Tiger’s Nest (also known as Paro Taktsang), a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and temple complex, located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley, in Bhutan. Photos: Robin Yap


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Robin Yap knows better than to believe that the grass is greener on the other side. He’s been working with one company for over 30 years, and that commitment has certainly paid off.

Today, the man is president of The Travel Corporation (Asia). Some brands under the international travel group include Trafalgar, Contiki and Insight Vacations.

That dedication also means that the 58-year-old is attuned to the notable changes in the travel scene.

Technology, says the Singapo­rean in an email, has totally changed the business landscape. But he is unfazed about future challenges, thanks to his dear mother’s advice.

“My mum told me that if you are not prepared, even if gold falls from the sky, you will be too slow to pick it up,” Yap relates. “I am always prepared. And when you are prepared with content and substance, you have nothing to worry about.”

The industry veteran shares some vital information for a good holiday, and that one destination where he has felt the happiest.

Robin Yap having fun with friends at Bienvenido A La Estacion De Luque restaurant in La Subbetica, Spain.

Have you received any funny or peculiar travel booking requests?

Once in Bhutan, a lady who is allergic to butter was served a main course of “Butter Fish”. She screamed! The waiter calmly told her it’s the name of the fish. He explained that it is not made of butter, just like butterfly is not made of butter. There are some light moments in our business!

What makes for a good holiday?

There is no perfect tour, but there is the perfect mindset. Remember that you are going on a holiday and not on a fault-finding mission. Things can go wrong at home or abroad. A positive mindset will allow you to enjoy your holiday even if things do not turn out the way you want them to.

Travel with like-minded buddies who share the same view on truly wanting a great time. Choose a destination which suits your budget so that you need not restrain yourself from having a great meal, buying that gadget that you have been eyeing or visiting the monument that you read so much about.

Posing in front of the Buddha Dordenma statue at Buddha Point Thimphu, Bhutan.

Posing in front of the Buddha Dordenma statue at Buddha Point Thimphu, Bhutan.

In nearer destinations, finding a resort to unwind as a Free Inde­pendent Traveller (FIT) is a good option too. However, if you are heading for destinations further, with different languages and driving direction, you must have a lot of time and patience.

Last but not least, bringing your three-year-old on a long-haul, programme-packed group tour can drain energy. Wait till they are older and more ready.

What should travellers take note of, before booking holiday accommodation?

When making an online booking for accommodation with a promotional price, often there is no refund if you cancel. Do take note: Is breakfast included in the price and is there complimentary WiFi in the room? Often, a WiFi package can be costly. Do request for a non-smoking room in advance because some countries still offer smoking rooms and it can be uncomfortable.

As a travel industry veteran, what do you look for when you book a holiday?

If it is a short getaway, then I head for nearby destinations like Bhutan, which I visit twice a year to enjoy the calmness of the destination. For longer holidays, I usually enjoy a river cruise in Europe with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise.

Any tales of travel mishaps?

The worst thing to happen is losing your passport in a non-English-­speaking country. It takes hours to get someone to understand you and service at police stations in some countries is such that they are not exactly the nicest places to be to report a lost passport.

Robin Yap with some young monks at the Rinpung Dzongkhag, Paro.

Robin Yap with some young monks at the Rinpung Dzongkhag, Paro.

Where’s one destination where you have felt the happiest?

Definitely Bhutan. I already have a Bhutanese name – Wanhchen Rigzin. Bhutan is a simple country with stunning mountain scenery.

What are some items that you must bring along on your travels?

A camera, good walking shoes, powerbank, medicine for my gout, spare mobile phone and a local SIM card.

What’s the best travel advice you have received?

Travel now … for instance, the Northern Lights in Iceland may not appear in the next 10 years.

Do you have some travel tips for travellers?

Don’t buy the cheapest package because the cost of a holiday is not the price you pay. It includes all the hidden extras that you thought are included. Always purchase travel insurance, even if it only for a day. Have a medical check-up if you have a medical condition and make sure to get a prescription just in case you need to purchase the medication in a foreign land.

Also, keep your credit cards separately. In case you lose one, there is still another somewhere. And always register with your country’s ministry of foreign affairs and inform them where you are travelling to. In case of emergency, your foreigner affairs office can reach you.

Complete the following sentences:

I would hop on a plane in a heartbeat for a meal in…

Ashford Castle, Ireland.

If I’m seated next to an annoying passenger on a long-haul plane, I would…

Pop a pill … and sleep!


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