When it comes to travel, few things can ruin a vacation faster than money. Vacation is meant to relieve stress, not induce it.
Whether you’re trying to save money, avoid fighting over money, or avoid losing your money, these common sense tips should help:
Be proactive not reactive. The most common mistake people make when it comes to money and traveling is underestimating how much money they’ll need. They wishful-think themselves into believing they can get by on less and then stress when they’re forced to spend more. It’s crazy. Instead, understand the kind of traveler you are, and the type of vacation you are comfortable taking, and then realistically plan for how much money you’ll need to take the kind of vacation that will make you happy. All the budget travel tips in the world won’t work if you aren’t the budget traveler type.
Expect the unexpected. Make sure you understand all the costs associated with your trip and factor these into your budget. This may sound obvious, but hidden costs can be budget-busters. For example, if you’re on a private tour, guide and driver tips can run you an extra hundred dollars or so per day. And all-inclusive resorts are rarely all-inclusive — most charge extra for alcohol and any activity that involves not sitting still at the resort, so if you plan to imbibe, or move, you have to budget for it. Best to call ahead, check online travel resources, or confirm with your travel consultant before you go to avoid unhappy surprises.
Opportunity costs. Spending half a day trying to find a less-expensive sightseeing tour may save you $20, but was the cost of your time worth it? Probably not. When saving for vacation, save a little extra for opportunity cost, or as I call it, “F*ck it” money. Instead of spending an hour searching for someplace with a lower exchange rate, say “F*ck it” and pay the $4.00 ATM withdrawal charge — you’re buying time to see whatever it is you’ve traveled so far to see. Get going!
Money matters. Speaking of ATMs, use them. Instead of exchanging large amounts of currency at once, it’s far safer to withdraw reasonable amounts of cash as needed. And if you shop around, it’s easy to find fee-free international ATM cards. Don’t keep all your cash and credit cards in the same place. It’s better to keep smaller stashes in a couple of places on your person, and in your hotel if it has a reliable safe or safety-deposit box. That way if you’re robbed or burgled or lose your wallet, you suffer only a setback, not a financial meltdown.
Avoid being taken for a ride. Before taking a taxi, ask a local approximately how long the ride should take and what it should cost to get there. They may not be 100 percent accurate, but even a ballpark figure helps you avoid being ripped off. And don’t hail taxis in front of your hotel, major tourist destinations, or restaurants within a few blocks of major tourist attractions. They tend to be more expensive.
Here kitty, kitty. When traveling with others, I’m a huge advocate of the “kitty” system, which works like this: everyone makes an equal-cash contribution to fund agreed-upon group activities and meals. One person is in charge of the kitty and is responsible for paying bills. If the kitty runs low, everyone contributes an equal amount of cash again, and should one person consistently order more expensive items, he or she agrees to contribute a larger share to keep things fair. The kitty system means less stress, and you won’t waste time splitting bills, keeping tabs on who owes money to whom, or who paid for what.
Worst house, best neighborhood. Conventional wisdom says you’re better off with the worst house in the best neighborhood instead of the other way around. The same goes for hotels. My first choice, as I’ve written about a million times, is always local, independent, boutiques, but when one’s not available, I always go for the less expensive rooms in the nicest hotels. Unless the whole point of my trip is the hotel itself, then I spend relatively little time in my room and therefore have a hard time justifying the exorbitant price most luxury or chain hotels charge for any room, let alone their larger ones or those with views. By staying in smaller rooms, or on lower floors, or not facing the ocean, I’m still able to enjoy all the perks of the place, but can spend my money on everything else there is to enjoy when I’m not sleeping.
Know before you go. When traveling with another person, the goal is for everyone to be comfortable and happy, which won’t happen if money matters aren’t aligned. Before you go, openly discuss budgets, establishing and agreeing to how much, and on what, you are willing and able to spend. If money is a limiting factor for one of you, be sure to talk about what you each are okay with doing on your own.