Planning a Trip Abroad?
Hopefully the other posts on this site have inspired you to do so, and if so, you are very welcome! However, before you jet off to that island getaway you’ve been dreaming of, I feel it necessary to let you in on a few secret travel tips known only to the “travel illuminati” (the traveluminati? No scratch that) to help you keep an eye on your finances.
Saving for the Trip
You can’t go on a trip without money, right?
While it may not take a huge sum of money, it will take some to travel abroad. With accommodations, flights, transportation, food, and so on and so forth, the budget can become drained much faster than expected.
Thankfully, there are several ways to save money. First and foremost would be getting a job in the meantime. This will give you a source of regular income from which you can allocate a portion to traveling. With a job being your starting point, you can go a bit further by cutting back on guilty pleasures, opening a savings account, or even as far as giving yourself a weekly allowance.
Having a job also means that you might be on the receiving end of the IRS’s ever-reaching grasp—in other words, you might be getting a tax return. Depending on the types of tax calculators and estimators you use, you may be eligible for a hefty refund. Tax refunds can potentially make up a large portion of your travel savings depending on your circumstances.
When thinking of travel finances, this is the first one that should spring to mind. Most travellers tend to leave exchanging their money to the last minute, believing that they don’t want a wallet full of South African Rand weeks before they leave. This is a bad habit that I’ve been guilty of myself, and I paid dearly for it, quite literally so.
Thankfully there are some simple tips to help you from paying any unnecessary fees. Firstly, this may sound obvious, but shop around for the best deal. We do it for everything else we buy, so why not for foreign currency? Check the official exchange rates and see which providers are offering the best deals.
Airports and hotels are the worst places to pick up your currency as you end up paying high prices for the convenience. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t buy anything from your hotel room minibar, so don’t pick up your cash there either.
Secondly, check for any hidden fees. Remember, “commission-free” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best deal. Some UK banks have gone out of their way to cut the hidden fees associated with foreign currency exchanges, but many still charge their customers excessive fees for the privilege of international travel.
Cash Withdrawals Abroad
But what if you’re caught short and need to withdraw some money during your trip?
There is a common misconception that withdrawing money with your debit card is too expensive, and many still are, however it really depends on which bank you use.
The golden rule in this situation is: never withdraw money with your credit card. This is applicable for at home or abroad, but especially so when you’re away on holiday, with some banks charging up to £5 per withdrawal, along with 3% interest – quite steep considering you only needed £10 for another round of drinks.
So if you shouldn’t use your credit card, or debit card most of the time, then how do you access your holiday fund?
The answer to this one is very simple.
Thankfully, there are many alternative options that you can use.
Pre-paid travel cards offer the benefit of quick and easy access to your account, with the security of knowing that you won’t be charged too heavily, they can also help to keep you “in-budget” while you’re away.
Traveller’s cheques are another great alternative. Most people would prefer not to carry around all of their spending money in their back pocket. Traveller’s cheques give you the same freedom as with cash, but are a much safer option as, unlike cash; traveller’s cheques can be replaced.
When Booking: Bide Your Time
The title says it all really.
Let’s start with booking early.
Booking early can save you a great deal of cash. Most holiday makers book their summer trip in mid January. Travel agencies know this, and tend to update their deals accordingly, and by “update” I mean “inflate”. Booking a trip extra early can sometimes bag you your dream holiday at last year’s rates, saving (on average) 10%.
However, if you can, book later.
By “later” I mean between 8 and 10 weeks before you’re due to leave. Booking last minute usually guarantees the best prices, as hotels and flight providers desperately try to fill their last view vacancies. So if you can risk waiting until the last minute to find out where you’ll be spending your summer vacation, then this is a great option.
Living Dangerously? Make Sure You’re Covered
Whether you’re exploring the incredible deserts of Africa, or even swimming with sharks off the coast of Portugal, taking a trip that’s off the beaten path can be very tempting. Who wouldn’t want to score out something from their bucket list, and make some unforgettable memories while they’re at it?
If you’re planning an adventure holiday, make sure that you’re covered for any eventuality. Universal healthcare is not standard issue wherever you go, and in some paces even the most basic medicines will cost you an arm and leg (hopefully not literally this time). And let’s not even get into the huge price disparity for medical procedures from country to country.
Plan ahead. Get your inoculations. Get insured. That way you can live dangerously, but not have to worry too much about it.
The main takeaway here is: plan ahead.
Your holiday should be a time to relax and unwind, don’t let it be ruined by pesky financial matters. Follow these simple tips and you’ll be sure to have a trip to remember (for all the right reasons).