Travelling abroad is often assumed to be expensive. Sure, it definitely can be if you don’t do a little preliminary research and planning. But a trip overseas, and especially 12 months or more of travelling doesn’t have to put you in debt up to your eyeballs.
Here are my top seven travel budget tips for travelling abroad without breaking the bank:
1. Make a plan and a budget
The thought of being foot loose and fancy free is all very exciting… until you get your credit card bill! With a little forward planning and a realistic budget you can still enjoy that freedom feeling, without the painful sting at the end.
Make a list of all the locations you would like to visit and then spend some time researching the accommodation costs and living costs for each location. Compare and then choose the one’s that provide better pricing.
Once you know your accommodation costs, next compare the different transport costs to get to each location. For example, we were planning on going to Ko Samui last year because our timeshare had some great accommodation deals going but the costs to get there were so high it worked out better to go and explore Pattaya and stay in a gorgeous resort there instead.
Your transport and accommodation costs will be your two major travelling costs. Next will be travel insurance and then food. Once you know these you can create a budget for your entire trip which then gives you exactly how much you will need to earn to cover it so you don’t have to dip into your savings.
2. Book in advance or within 3 weeks
Businesses need to know in advance what their client base is going to be so that they can budget and schedule staff, especially airlines and hotels. This means that they tend to have special offers way in advance. If you have made a plan (step #1 of these travel budget tips) then you can take advantage of these deals and save even more.
Similarly, when it is within a three-week window they tend to also offer discounts because they are wanting to fill last-minute vacancies. This enables you to reduce your travel budget even further and give you a sense of freedom to visit locations last minute.
Extra bonus travel budget tips – when travelling for 12 months or more, we recommend staying in each location for at least 30 days to soak up the culture. If you book through AirBNB and put in more than 30 nights you will find some serious discounts available. Some even up to 60%!!
3. Don’t carry too much money
With the exception of Japan, you will find there are plenty of ATM machines in most countries you might be thinking about visiting. Therefore, it isn’t necessary to be carrying large amounts of cash with you.
This also reduces the risk of you losing your travel money if you happen to be robbed (which can happen in any country, so always be careful). Or on a less scary note, if you leave your wallet/purse somewhere accidentally.
Always check the ATM for the attachment of a skimming machine where you insert your card into the machine, cover your hand when you type in your passcode and be aware of anyone who might be loitering around you.
4. Look for bonus offers or package deals
Package deals can save you quite a lot if they include things you actually want to do or would usually pay for. One of our timeshare companies often offers accommodation with free breakfast, massage, and market tour in Hoi An. If they offer just the breakfast we usually take it however if it includes massage and tour then it isn’t worth it for us as we’ve already done the tour and we have our favourite local massage therapists that are usually cheaper.
So, always calculate out the cost of the additions in the packages offered and if they work for you, grab the deal. Of course, to get these packages you need to be on their mailing lists so make sure you are. We have a specific email address we use for our travel mailing lists which makes it easy to search for package deals when we need them and stops our usual emails being clogged up with excess emails.
5. Shop at the local markets
Unless you are staying in a hotel room, most places will have a little kitchenette for you to prepare some meals. This is a great way to save money (unless you are in Vietnam where eating out is cheaper than cooking it yourself). Even if it’s just for some snacks, rather than pay hotel prices, take a visit to a local market for some fresh fruit, you’ll be so glad you did.
There is no better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than shopping at the local market or grocery store. Here you will get to practice the local language, connect with those who are at the heart of the country (local farmers), and save yourself some cash at the same time.
In some places, you will need to be careful as they may have ‘tourist prices’ and ‘local prices’ but if you are patient and sit back for a little while and wait for a local to purchase you will then know what the right price is to pay. Also, in some cultures, it is respectful to barter for the best price and they expect it, so don’t be shy.
6. Mind the exchange rates & bank fees
Do a little research before you leave so that you are aware of what the exchange rates are. This can save you a LOT! Especially when you are also aware of the fees.
Compare the rates at the airport money exchange booths to what you found during your research. It is often cheaper to go to a local money exchange, yet sometimes it isn’t as well. This is why it’s important to do your research before-hand.
Watch out for your bank fees too. These can really add up. When using your debit or credit card to either withdraw money from an ATM or to purchase items overseas most banks will charge you an exchange fee (as well as giving you a poor exchange rate). There is also a fee at every ATM. While in Germany on our last day we had to withdraw 200 Euros to cover incidentals. It cost us $27 in fees!
To avoid this, we now have several accounts with ING (relevant for Australians only) and ING will actually refund all of your fees. There are some criteria you need to meet (currently – deposit $1k a month and make at least five purchases) but by utilising ING we have saved over $1000 in fees this last financial year alone. Making this the easiest of the travel budget tips to implement and get results with.
7. Travel slightly offseason
With the exception of Europe in summer, we rarely travel to locations during their peak season. It’s better to go either just before or just after when the cost of accommodation and tours etc is much lower. Plus, there will be fewer tourists which makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
One of the best trips I had before Clark (BC) when I was a solo traveller was to Colorado in April. It was a bit of a risk as it was well out of peak season and there was a small chance there wouldn’t any snow cover but it turned out to be absolutely amazing. It was warm enough to ski in a t-shirt and the powder cover was superb. I saved thousands by going that bit later on flights, accommodation and ski hire and got special attention from local shop owners who were appreciative for the business.
By implementing even just half of these seven travel budget tips you can save thousands of dollars without compromising the quality of your experience. Remember, every dollar saved is less you have to earn and is keeping you from having to tap into your savings. There are lots more, maybe you even have some you would like to share? Let us know below in the comments and let’s help each other to stretch our travel dollars further.