The thought of just hopping on a plane to go anywhere at a moment’s notice, with no worries or qualms, leaving everything behind to travel for a bit is a romantic, thrilling notion. However, unless you’re Donald Trump, it may be a little unrealistic. While you definitely can just fly far far away, taking a couple steps to make sure your finances are in order first will save you a lot of trouble during and after your trip.
Call in Credit Cards
Your bank prides itself on keeping your (and their) money uber safe, and this sometimes works against you. When the bank notices any activity on your cards that seems a little fishy, perhaps a few out of the country purchases, it freaks and shuts down your card to make sure that it hasn’t been stolen. For you, this can pan out to be a terrible situation.
Imagine, you’re in China, swiping that plastic left and right as your only available method of payment and it is declined for apparently no reason. That could be scary if you have no backup funds available. Furthermore, since it takes quite some time to figure out how to reinstate your card, you may just be out luck for a while, begging for coins on the street to pay for your hotel. Stop the chaos before it starts by informing your credit card companies and bank of your travel plans.
Even if you aren’t 100% set on where you are going and for how long, let them know you will be out of the country so that they know your cards haven’t been stolen. Once you book your flight and hotel, give them a heads up so they are on the same page.
Make a Budget
Seems pretty obvious but many people just save a hunk of money and go. This sets them up for financial disaster once they are abroad. When you travel, you feel free and the freedom can often lead to careless spending on random things you feel you can’t have back home.
To avoid spending your money in the wrong places, cut up your funds into a reasonable budget. First, split it down the middle and use that portion for accommodations and travel expenses (flight, buses, trains and cabs). Since you will need to keep yourself alive by eating and drinking (with a little fun drinking factored in), the next quarter should be dedicated to food and drinks. The remaining quarter is what you have to spend at your discretion on sightseeing admission prices, souvenirs and the like. Keep in mind that some countries require entry visas, immunizations and some roads have tolls. These miscellaneous expenses should be planned for pre-departure, if possible. It’s always a good idea to keep some money in reserve for unexpected expenses.
The fluctuating world economy can really do some damage to your wallet if you’re not careful. Make sure you know how the currency in the country you are visiting compares to the dollar before you visit. While some places will not cut your budget by much, others (looking at you London) will cut your spending dollars in half. One of the worst feelings when showing up to a new land is thinking you will be able to do a bunch of fun things and then realizing that the exchange rate is so high that you can only afford to do half as much. Know the rate before you go to save yourself some disappointment upon arrival.
Once your finances are squared away, hop on that plane and have yourself a jolly old time wherever you please. While traveling, make sure to pick up some great memories, since those are free.
How Rethinking International Travel Can Save You Money
Americans traditionally consider travel a luxury, reserved for retirement-aged people who are able to afford the time and cost involved in taking a proper vacation. We often think of traveling as a getaway, where all of our needs and wants are addressed by friendly hotel staff. The destination and local culture are often lost amongst mints on pillows, relaxing spa treatments, fancy dinners and elaborate shows.
This type of travel, while serving as a break from the annoyances of your life, usually costs a small fortune. However, there is a cheaper, more fulfilling way to travel, if you make a few trade offs and rethink the idea of travel itself.
Make it About the Place
Sure, Paris and London sound lovely but these touristy, luxury-focused destinations can cost you a great deal of money. Between the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, you’ll find yourself scrapping the bottom of the piggy bank for your flight home. In fact, most of Western Europe is so marked-up that a budget trip is hard to come by.
As an alternative, consider venturing to non-English-speaking territories, like Eastern Europe. If you’re looking for beaches and a great nightlife scene, cities like Zagreb, Croatia, have a lot to offer and for a much less. Eastern Europe is relatively new to the travel scene, and it has a lot of interesting things to see (like underground wine cities in Moldova).
Additionally, this area has yet to adopt the Euro, and in general, the dollar is stronger than the local currency. While you’ll still have to put out for the plane ticket to Europe, once there, budget airlines like Ryanair will get you around for as little as 1 Euro (plus taxes) if you book early.
Make it About the People
Befriending the waitstaff at your hotel doesn’t equate to mingling with actual locals. In fact, staying at a hotel, period, keeps you at a distance from actually experiencing the destination from the ground up. Americans were introduced to the idea of hostels through a gruesome movie that implanted thoughts of death and torture in our perception of these places. This is total bullshit.
While some hostels may be less than pristine, there are many scattered around the world that are just as clean, private and inhabitable as some mid-level hotels, and at a heavily discounted price. Rethinking your travel accommodations will cut the cost of your trip in a huge way. And really, who cares where you sleep? Since most people that stay at hostels are on the broke train and/or are seeking out non-touristy spots, you’ll be exposed to cheaper local hangouts like bars and restaurants, which gives you the chance to actually interact with the people of the place you’re visiting (and save some green along the way). If you’re traveling solo, sleeping on a bunk bed for a few nights may be a fair trade for a more memorable trip.
Make it More Meaningful
Sipping Pina Coladas on the beach in Cancun has its appeal. But, when the straw gurgles that last drop, all you’re left with is a hazy recollection of your vacation, a nasty sunburn and a hole in your wallet. Consider traveling for a cause to save some money and inject some meaning into your trip.
Get your hands dirty with WWOOFING. Nothing to do with barking, WWOOFING stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that connects willing volunteers with farms around the world. By joining the network, you have the choice of working on a farm almost anywhere in the world. Once you are placed, your labor is repaid with free accommodation and meals prepared from the food that you helped harvest. The best-known farms are in the south of France (think vineyards) and since a lot of farms are in rural parts of the world, you get to really see how the locals live and taste authentic, home-cooked, regional cuisine, for free.
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive if you stay off the five star path. Making just a few adjustments to the way you approach travel can keep some of that hard-earned cash snugly in your pocket.