SINGAPORE - If not for the Covid-19 pandemic, cyber security consultant Kenneth Lim, 30, would have taken a trip to Osaka and Kyoto in Japan with his fiancee this year.
Instead, the couple spent a night last month exploring buzzing Keong Saik, while staying at the boutique Hotel Soloha, where they had coffee and pastries at bakery Bread and Hearth and Peranakan fare at Blue Ginger.
"You cannot replace the vacation feel 100 per cent, but there is some excitement because I've never roamed around Keong Saik before. On a holiday, the thrill is in exploring new places, which we still got to experience," says Mr Lim.
With travel on hold, millennials like him are forming the bulk of staycation guests at boutique hotels in cool neighbourhoods on the city fringe.
Mrs Eileen Lim, director of Hotel Yan in Jalan Besar, says about 70 per cent of guests since it reopened for staycations in July are in their 20s - a mix of couples and groups of friends celebrating birthdays.
At Hotel Soloha, founder Josh Hu says the bulk of guests have been couples aged between 27 and 36 since it reopened in July.
Many properties are offering discounts of between 20 and 40 per cent to draw young working professionals hankering for now unattainable holidays abroad. Few mind that there is no pool, gym or free breakfast, when there is lots to do, see and eat in the neighbourhood, sometimes with tie-up discounts too.
Properties such as lyf Funan, located in Funan mall, offer up to 25 per cent discounts at popular eateries nearby, such as Tiong Bahru Bakery and Crystal Jade Go. The hotel has also paired up with tour companies Monster Day Tours and Tribe Tours to take guests around the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Its general manager Norman Cross says: "Guests will have the opportunity to find out more about Singapore's heritage and discover places off the beaten track."
The Straits Times rounds up four hotels for an affordable staycation.
The Sultan: Shophouse elegance on the doorstep of Kampong Glam
If you want a comfortable, fuss-free stay on the doorstep of Kampong Glam, you could do worse than spend the night at The Sultan hotel - an elegant row of conserved shophouses in Jalan Sultan.
The Sultan Room ($160), where I put up for a night, isn't as majestic as its name suggests. But it has a pleasant, classy decor, and feels spacious thanks to the high ceiling.
A whiff of disinfectant reminds me of a dentist's clinic, but I'm also comforted by the knowledge that the room is probably as "squeaky SG clean" as its website says it is.
HOTEL YAN: DELICIOUS DIGS IN JALAN BESAR
A jaunt across the border; dropping my bags in a new hotel; a weekend-long whirlwind of brunches, naps and never feeling hungry because 24 hours is not enough time for all the good food.
Before Covid-19 struck, this was my annual getaway in Johor Baru. With borders closed, I find similar adventures in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Jalan Besar, with a stay at Hotel Yan in Tyrwhitt Road.
Its name captures the spirit of travel - Yan means swallow in Mandarin - and this motif recurs in the hotel's design. Its logo is a sleek bird's feather and an installation of metal birds adorns a concrete wall behind the check-in counter.
Hotel Soloha: Chic, comfortable home base for restaurant, bar hopping along Keong Saik Road
Hotel Soloha in Teck Lim Road provides an excellent base to explore Keong Saik, one of Singapore's hottest dining and drinks stretches, as I discover on my one-night staycation at the boutique hotel.
I am no stranger to this neighbourhood, which I find myself at every week, either for dinner, cocktails, or both.
But experiencing the luxury and convenience of being able to go back to a chic and comfortable hotel room, with a spa-worthy rain shower and bed, after a night of bar hopping - instead of fighting with the masses to get a cab home - might have ruined me forever.
lyf Funan: One Of A Kind Plus studio at a high-tech hotel in a historic spot
So about a week ago, I left my perfectly good home and checked into a hotel about 30 minutes by MRT from where I live.
When I say my home is "perfectly good", it comes with caveats. There is a small lizard problem (not because of their number, but because they fall into the open mouths of sleepers, which means one lizard is too many lizards).
Among the non-lizard issues affecting my residence is that like many of us, I have been stuck there for roughly 30,000 years, or since February. When this assignment came up, I jumped at the chance to whisper to my ceiling-walking buddy: "You may end up in my mouth one night, but it will not be tonight."