Travel, like any part of life, requires a budget. After all, you don’t want to blow your savings on a week-long trip and not be able to pay your rent when you get back. That being said, it’s easy to forget things when they’re not part of your usual spending patterns.
So, here are 10 travel budget mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Using a credit card for everything
Credit cards are a common way to pay for unexpected expenses or expensive items, so it’s tempting to let
Visa or MasterCard finance your vacation. And if you accrue miles or other rewards, it’s especially tempting to just charge it. This is a bad idea.
Credit card purchases mean paying interest, and the cost of your vacation suddenly goes up 20%, or more, depending on your card.
That’s not to say you should never use your credit card while on vacation. Many hotels require a card to hold the room, and you don’t want them to use a debit card. And if you’re renting a car, many card companies offer rental insurance if you use their card. Just choose which expenditures you use it for carefully.
You also don’t want to count on being able to use your credit card. Smaller restaurants and shops won’t necessarily be set up to accept anything other than cash.
2. Bringing the wrong credit card
If you’re traveling internationally it’s a good idea to find out if your card charges conversion or exchange fees and how much they are, because they can add up, and not factoring those in can be a budget buster.
If you are going to travel abroad, I recommend getting a card that doesn’t charge conversion fees. Many airline cards, such ask Alaskan Airlines and British Airways, offer cards that don’t.
3. Not factoring in food and drink costs
If you’re on vacation, odds are good that you’ll be eating out a lot. But most people don’t think about the cost of this when planning their vacation budget. It’s becoming less common for hotels to offer free breakfasts, and even all-inclusive packages for resorts and cruises often don’t cover alcohol.
Check to see what’s included in your accommodations or packages. Then plan a daily meal budget and do your best to stick to it. A splurge on a nice meal now and then won’t kill you, but try to factor it in to the next day’s budget.
A good way to save money on food is to avoid hotel restaurants and restaurants with a lot of tourists.
4. Not factoring in tips
For people from the US, tipping restaurant and hotel staff is basically second nature. However, that’s not how every country works. Servers in Japan, for instance, don’t get tips and will be offended if you offer.
But, have you thought about tipping tour guides? When you’re on vacation you might have to tip more people than usual. Look up tipping etiquette for the country your traveling to and budget that in.
5. Not factoring in transportation costs
You know how much your airfare will cost, but how much will it cost you to get around once you arrive at
your destination? If your hotel is centrally located you’ll probably be within walking distance of most of the things tourists like to do. But if you want to leave the city center, or the city, you’ll need an alternative to your feet.
Cabs tend to be expensive. If you’re in a place with good public transportation you can use that as an alternative. But if you really want to range far out, you may need to consider renting a car.
Having an itinerary will help you figure these things out in advance.
6. Thinking you need to rent a car for your whole vacation
If you plan to spend a couple of days visiting old castles outside Bucharest, but plan to spend the rest of your vacation in the city, see about renting a car for just those couple of days. Don’t spend more than you need to.
That being said, some rental car companies only give unlimited miles if you rent for a certain amount of days. One I found said you had to rent for at least three days. To save yourself a headache, and extra fees, check how many miles you’ll be driving and plan accordingly. It may be cheaper to pay the extra mileage fee, or it may be worth it to rent for an extra day.
7. Exchanging currency at the airport
The airport currency exchange seems convenient, but will give you a lower rate of exchange and charge a higher fee than currency exchanges outside the airport.
If you need cash right away, consider stopping at an ATM to take out local currency. But do find out if your bank charges a currency conversion fee before you leave on your trip, so you can factor those costs in.
8. Not telling your bank/credit card company you’ll be away
Nothing is worse than having your credit card declined or debit card eaten by an ATM because your bank or card company doesn’t know where you are.
Save yourself the hassle, and international calling fees, by calling them before you leave and telling them where you’ll be and on which dates.
9. Not contacting your cell phone company
I’m not saying you can’t use your phone, but call your cell phone company first and find out what it will
cost you. Many offer international calling and data plans, however, they can be expensive. Though, not as expensive as international roaming fees.
If you can go without a phone for a couple of days, all the better. But if not, see about getting your phone unlocked, or buying a pre-unlocked phone, and getting a local sim card. It will cost far less.
10. Sticking to tourist traps
When you travel to a certain place there is probably something you really want to see, like the Louvre in Paris. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire trip running from one tourist trap to another.
As with restaurants, get off the beaten path and go see the things most tourists ignore. In fact, travel to places most tourists ignore. Eastern Europe and the Baltic States are gorgeous, and much easier on your wallet.