It’s summer time: a time that conjures up mental images of dreamy beach getaways or weeks long European vacations. While getting out and exploring a new place or even just returning to a favorite destination is great for your mental health, it might not always be great for your pocketbook.
We know how easy it can be to lose track of your finances when you’re away from home. There are so many opportunities that present themselves, and so many times you want to just say, “Why not? I’m on vacation!” However, as carefree as this attitude may be, you might not feel the same way when you return home and look at your bank statement. Here are some helpful tips for staying within your budget when you go on your next trip, big or small.
Planning Ahead. First and foremost, set a budget before you leave! You’d be surprised by how many people forget this crucial step in the plan, thinking to themselves that they know the cost of everything that will come up on their trip. It doesn’t have to be an exact number, even a range will do. Just be sure to keep your figures in your head, and try to plan out as best you can certain costs you know will present themselves while you’re away. After you’ve created your budget, add a 10 to 15% inflation window, just in case.
About 8% of your annual yearly budget can go towards fun activities like travel. You can increase this percentage by cutting back in other areas, such as monthly entertainment or excess coffee runs.
Divvying Up the Costs. When trip planning, balance your total costs based on 1) where you’re going; 2) how you plan to get there; and 3) what you’ll do once there. For example, while a small island in the Pacific might have really great rates on hotels or restaurants, it might cost a small fortune to fly there—but you’ll save on low-cost beach activities. If you’re on a budget, plan a trip that doesn’t gouge you in all three areas.
Use Discounts! Many of us are AAA members, or have other ways of getting good deals on travel including points from our credit cards, knowing which sites to shop for best airfare and hotel rates, or have other advantages/perks under our belts. Take the time to map out your discounts before you leave in order to take advantage of the best deals possible while you’re away.
Take Cash. While it may make some of us a bit nervous, taking cash is one way to be absolutely sure that we stay within our budget. When you have cash with you, you’re more likely to take things a bit slower when it comes to dishing out the dollars, as you can physically see in front of you how much you have left to spend.
What’s the Rate? Figure out the exchange rates ahead of time, and then check upon your arrival, as they’ll be more accurate in your new location. Having a firm grasp on what the currency to dollar ratio is will help you save. It’s also important to do your homework on how well you’ll be able to use your credit cards and debit cards while you’re away, as well as other ATM withdrawals. Talk to your bank about sister locations in your final destination, that way you’re not surprised by higher withdrawal fees than usual. And of course, always alert your bank when you’re traveling, especially outside the country.
Not Everyone Needs a Souvenir. It’s tempting to want to buy gifts and trinkets for everyone you know on your list, but don’t do it! Make a list of exactly who you want to buy gifts for while on your stay, stick to it, and how much you’re willing to spend approximately on each one. If there are people on your list that you want to spend less on, send them a postcard instead. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’re thinking of them.
Buy Less. Before you walk into a tourist trap gift shop, think to yourself, am I really going to use this item in my home? There are so many pieces or things we want to buy in the moment as mementos of our trip, but really, a cheaper alternative is to take pictures in the moment that can be printed and framed later. You’ll be more apt to appreciate a personal photo you took in front of a historic landmark rather than a cheap, plastic replica of it on your bookshelf upon your return home.
Hotel Alternatives. Look for an Airbnb or other rental properties over a hotel. They’ll have a lot less taxes and fees you’ll have to pay, plus you can also save on your dining bills if you have a kitchen where you can cook local ingredients from a nearby market instead of eating out every meal.
Saving on Meals. Of course there will be tons of restaurants who have marked up their prices, based solely off of their location or their claim to fame with other tourists. If you want to spend less on eating out, but still enjoy the same quality, ask some locals for their recommendations on where to eat. Chances are, they’ll be a lot less pricey. Also, if you want to avoid eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner while you’re away, bring some snacks with you to tide you over, or visit a local market and pick up some easy breakfast foods or ingredients to make packable lunches on the go. Getting yourself down to one meal out a day will definitely save you money for other activities while you’re visiting.
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