Going abroad on holiday can be an expensive affair. Not only do you have to consider flights and accommodation, it is equally important to think about how much to spend on food, drink, attractions, gifts, and the rest. Costs for a bargain holiday can soon spiral out of control, but there are a number of things you can do to ensure you remain in budget.
Cash, Credit Cards and Exchanging Money
Try and use cash whenever possible since credit cards vary depending on your provider. Unless you have a specialist card that permits free withdrawals, or has low usage fees, making purchases with cash is often more favourable. It is wise to carry a credit card on the off chance you need to withdraw additional money, but for the most part, cards with usage fees should be avoided if possible.
Exchanging currency is something that you will probably do before jetting off abroad. For the most attractive rates, online is the way to go, but good deals can still be found at places like The Post Office (if you are in the UK), or a high street bureau de change. Banks are often dearer, so avoid these if you can – that is, unless you stumble across an extremely attractive deal. If you happen to need additional cash while on holiday, be sure to investigate exchange rates and any commission charges. What on first inspection appears the cheapest may be more expensive in practice.
Another method to ensure you keep on top of finances is to obtain a prepaid currency card. These are similar to debit cards and let you pre-load money prior to travelling. For anyone wanting to limit spending, these are certainly worth considering.
At the airport
Goods at airports are generally more expensive since you’re paying for convenience. But better bargains can often be had once you’ve arrived at the resort, and depending on where you are staying, considerable savings can be made if you shop around.
It can also be worthwhile taking your own food and drink, since airport cafes and bars are hardly the cheapest. Remember: due to security restrictions, liquids and other items cannot be taken into certain airport areas, so keep this in mind before travelling.
If you’re going to the airport by car and wish to book a parking space, do so well in advance. It can be cheaper than paying on the day and could save valuable time if parking zones are busy. Alternatively, get a friend or taxi to take you (sometimes the most cost-effective option).
Mobile phone usage
If you’re travelling abroad, it makes sense to take your mobile phone along for the journey. However, call, text and data costs vary depending on which area of the world you’re visiting. Although European countries now have reasonable text and call charges, data is another matter altogether, and it can prove costly if you accidentally forget to switch off Internet traffic. In addition, travelling further afield can be even more expensive, and for long stays it can be wise to invest in a cheap local SIM and handset.
To avoid unnecessary charges: firstly, ensure your mobile provider supports roaming abroad, and check it is enabled. Secondly, obtain a list of prices, including cost per minute, per text, per picture message, etc. Having the facts to hand is invaluable and avoids any confusion. Third, remember to disable data if you have a handset that supports this feature. This way, you’ll avoid the shock of a huge mobile bill landing on your doorstep.
Going self-catering and organising your own meals is a great way to save cash when on holiday. Self-catering accommodation is often cheaper than hotels, since food is not included. However, choosing this method can be somewhat of a double-edged sword. Eating out or purchasing local produce to cook with can sometimes exceed what you may have paid for the hotel. It is good practice to budget before travelling and shop around to ensure you’re getting value. For ultimate flexibility and freedom, self-catering is the way to go, but some may also like to consider all inclusive deals (see below).
Depending on your circumstances, it could make financial sense to choose an ‘all inclusive’ deal. This is especially the case if you intend to take full advantage of the perks on offer, or if you intend to spend a significant amount of time at the hotel or resort. With all inclusive, all food and drink is usually free, so it’s worth remembering your freedom is limited, and while you can still eat out, there will be less incentive to do so.
Buy bottled water
If you are visiting a hot climate, it’s likely you will have to stop for drinks in local cafes and bars to cool off after a long day in the sun. For visitors on a tight budget, one way to save pennies is by purchasing bottled water. While there are excellent deals to be found, drinks in restaurants and bars are usually more expensive. Limiting your time in bars and opting for bottled mineral water, rather than soft drinks and beer, can prove a real money saver.
How do you rate your haggling skills? In some countries bartering is the norm, and you’d be foolish to immediately pay the advertised price. Of course, this rule only applies at certain destinations, but you can still enquire about any deals, or possibly undertake a spot of mini-haggling. It could very well save you some cash which can be spent elsewhere.
Travel insurance is a must-have when going abroad and costs differ quite widely. Price comparison sites often list a number of popular companies, but it can still pay to shop around. Some insurance companies are not listed on comparison sites, and may be able to offer you a better deal. In addition, if your needs are more specialist, local insurance brokers may be able to assist. Some bank accounts now offer travel insurance as part of a banking package. Often this is tied in with a premium ‘pay monthly’ current account, which tends to include mobile phone insurance, discounts, etc. It is recommended checking with your bank prior to travelling to ensure an adequate level of cover. If you have one of these specialist accounts, you may discover it to be the most cost effective for your needs. Shopping around, again, is the order of the day. Spend time researching and compare various providers before purchasing.