10 Simple Rules How To Travel On Budget

10 Simple Rules How To Travel On Budget During Your VacationDuring my stay in Thailand, I had the fortunate privilege of taking a Thai cooking class, snorkeling in the Andaman Sea, riding an elephant, and meeting interesting people from all corners of the globe. Throughout the month of backpacking, I managed to discuss with other travelers of their diverse globetrotting experiences. There was a consensus when managing one’s spending budget, while traveling abroad. Therefore, I would like to share the secrets of the average global traveler, consolidated into the 10 Commandments for Staying on Budget during your vacation.

10 simple rules to travel on budget during your vacation

Bare in mind most of my vacations consist of backpacking and rarely do I ever go to all-inclusive resorts; however, I would like to think my rules could apply to any type of traveler. Everyone needs to pay for accommodations, food, drinks, and transportation; therefore, please read the following set of 10 rules to better yourself for your next trip. The following are 10 simple rules to remember for your next global adventure:

1. Make a detailed budget outlining the total cost of the trip.

Calculating Costs for your Backpacking TripDo not lose track of time before you depart. There is nothing worse than returning from vacation, cringing at thought of the arrival of your bank and/or credit card statement. A top down budget (generic budgetary line items – best guess) may not protect you from overspending, but it gives you an idea of how much you can spend before you leave.

I always book my plane tickets nine months before my departure date. Often, I manage to save approximately $400 on average per trip. Before each trip I always speak with friends and family who had traveled to my upcoming destination(s), and create a spending budget based on the expertise from reliable sources. Everyone has their own vices, knowing your current spending habits is necessary to successfully create a realistic budget.

2. Know how much money you need on average per day.

Paying Cash Abroad BackpackingFor longer vacations, it is almost impossible to plan a perfect daily budget; however, when you plan your spending money every 3-4 days, it is easier to plan. To make it easy on you, cash is the best way to avoid increasing your consumer debt. Take your budget and divide them into 3 to 4 day increments, (depending on your comfort level with the amount of cash you wish to carry) and then plan your withdrawals every 3 to 4 days. If there is still money at the end of the 3-4 day period keep going.

Withdrawing money daily is way too expensive, as well carrying your entire vacation spending budget is too dangerous. I heard of one unfortunate traveler who took the bus from Phuket to Surat Thani, left her purse in her checked bags (luggage that goes with the cargo below). She was diligent in watching the bus at every stop and ensured no one touched her bag; however, what she didn’t realize was during transport someone had climbed into the cargo compartment and went through her bag taking her purse and passport.

The best strategy is to take a credit card that is cleared and put your vacation funds on it. Your credit card will be used as a convenient debit card that you can be used at most ATMs worldwide. MasterCard and Visa on average have better international fees and exchange rates than most major banks. However, check with your bank before implementing this strategy; they may have banking products that make it easy to withdrawal money from your bank. If you decide to use your credit card you should know your limit and spend within it.

3. Budget your time as well as your finances.

There is nothing worse than rushing to the airport, bus, and/or train station because of the tardiness of checking out of a hostel, relying on another form of transportation, getting stuck in traffic, etc. Give yourself an extra hour or two regardless if you feel it is needed on both ends (departing from one location and arriving at another).

Poor time management can cost you greatly especially if you had your hopes of catching the last train to the airport, the last boat to the mainland/island to make your hostel reservation, or worse. There will always be a ‘Plan B’ available, just expect to pay 4-10 times as much to make last minute arrangements in changes of transportation and/or accommodations.

4. Grocery story vs. hostel bar – Buy your drinks at the hostel.

City Circus Hostel Athens - Grocery story vs. hostel bar - Buy your drinks at the hostel

Canadians are notorious for the lost art of pre-drinking. Find a few friends at the hostel to purchase liquor and beer from a nearby liquor store for huge discounts. Make sure you are allowed to bring outside drinks into the hostel; if not, find an outdoor area near the hostel where it is ok to drink. A great tip, when selecting a hostel, is to select a hostel that allows its guests to drink in the common room/lounge. You have to respect the rules of the hostel, so find a hostel that has fewer restrictions. Maybe you are even looking for a Party Hostel? Make sure you get one!

If you are heading out from the hostel (partying at a hostel bar or the local night scene), have enough drinks that will only require the odd drink to keep your buzz going. Try not to drink too much that may prevent you from getting into pubs/night clubs; or worse, getting arrested for being drunk in public. Please drink responsibly.

5. Never underestimate the power of a weaker currency.

Just because your dollar can buy 25 to 48 Baht, that doesn’t mean you should go on major spending sprees. It always adds up. Stick with your average spending allowance, which you calculated in step 2, and try to stay within your limits. You will be very surprised how quick your account balance will disappear if you do not have a plan.

6. Enjoy tours, adventure packages, and any other excursion but plan a quiet day afterward.

Organized tours and adventures are almost always a great time; however, they tend to put a dent in your daily spending budget. Acknowledge the cost of each tour and average it out over the number of days within your designated withdrawal periods. Some tours might cost more than your ‘average’ daily spending allowance; therefore, spread the cost over a few days to allow flexibility for the other days within that spending period.

Enjoy tours, adventure packages, and any other excursion but plan a quiet day afterward.

7. Spoil yourself once in a while.

Do not let opportunities pass you by. If you come across something you must have, or partake in; try to rationalize if you can truly afford it and then proceed. When visiting Australia in 2006, I had the opportunity of flying in a World War 1 Tiger Moth plane, over the Gold Coast, which involved a series of suicide dives and barrel roles. The cost of the tour was over $300 but I always wanted to ride in one since I was very young.

After that amazing excursion I did cut back for a week on several luxuries (going out every night, eating out, etc.); however, I was so happy to live one of my dreams so it was worth it.

8. Learn to make new friends, greatest asset on any vacation.

Even the most experienced world traveler won’t know everything there is to know about certain destinations. Meeting new people opens the door to exchanging tips and stories; as well as benefiting from group discounts. Technology is making our lives so much easier, check out link to our Godashboard to see who else will be in the hostel to see you is staying at your hostel. On every vacation I try to meet someone new for no other reason than to have a friendly chat. I always find myself returning from vacations wiser and happier.

Learn to make new friends, greatest asset on any vacation.
Photo by El Misti Rooms in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

9. Do not waste money on souvenirs for others; unless they requested certain items.

As unfortunate as these sounds, it is great advice to save money. For many travelers there may be random moments abroad when a person feels they need to buy gifts for others. Why? Perhaps they might want to share the experience they had while traveling abroad. More times than not, gifts end up being a costly expenditure near the end of one’s trip; which could easily rack up unnecessary spending where it could have easily been spent on something else.

From my experience, unless someone has expressed a real interest in the destination you are visiting, or they have been there before; souvenirs are often cherished for a very short period of time. Don’t fall in the trap of feeling guilty for those who could not be there with you; if they are capable of traveling there then encourage them to go by sharing stories and showing pictures.

10. Track your spending frequently – no regrets if going over budget.

You work hard and no one should take that away from you. If you go over budget yet you had the time of your life, and are richer from the experience; then you have succeeded. Hopefully, you do not go too much over budget. If you stick to your budget you should be able to stay on target, or at least close to it. Returning to work might be a drag for some, don’t let your employers and/or co-workers bring you down for not being around, it is your life, live it how you want.

Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua, Big Foot Hostel in Leon
photo taken by Big Foot Hostel in Leon, Nicaragua

How do you manage your finances when traveling abroad?


Information about the Author

About Rafael Reis, StudentdestinationsRafael Reis from studentdestinations.ca has been creating lifestyle and financial literature since 2009. As a Partner of Student Destinations, Rafael hopes to empower millennials to achieve their bucket list as early as possible. Through informative content and apps, Rafael believes he can help people reach their goals. Travel is Rafael’s passion and he plans to travel the world before 40.

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