You’ve scrimped and saved like Paul McCartney in that one Beatles song (though I doubt Paul has much need for saving), and you’re ready to take a vacation. You don’t want to blow too much money while you’re on your trip, whether it’s 100 or 10,000 kilometres away. How do you stay on budget?
Have a Budget
This might seem obvious, but in order to stick to a budget, you need to create a budget in the first place. There’s a lot that goes into proper vacation budgeting, but when you do it right, you’ll have a really satisfying experience.
Going international? You’ll want to find the best exchange rates you can. You can look for credit cards that are specifically designed for international travel, but remember that a lot of societies are still operating on a cash-only basis. Some countries use contactless payment apps; Alipay, for example, is an important player in the Chinese market.
Now that you’ve looked at exchange rates, and hopefully taken some time to look at the cost of accommodations, food, leisure, and other amenities in your vacation spot of choice, it’s time to plan your budget. While vacations are relaxing, your budget should be strict. Figure out exactly how much money you’re willing to spend on every element of the trip, from where you’re going to stay to how much you’re going to spend on gifts for people back home.
Don’t worry too much about whether or not you can allot an extra $100 to gifts or not; the budget will be flexible to a degree (as we’ll discuss later). You might even opt to create a low-to-high budget, where you spell out the minimum and maximum you expect to spend on each category. That way, you’ll have a good idea what your total trip will cost you if you over or underspend.
Accidents, unexpected illness, and other health care problems can absolutely ruin a vacation and your vacation budget. Even countries with universal free healthcare typically only extend their healthcare to citizens or permanent residents, so vacationers may still be faced with a steep bill. Reider Insurance, a broker in Canada, advises that all visitors to Canada should still get travel insurance; without it, they may have to pay medical costs upfront. Obviously, this type of thing can tear through your vacation budget and more, so be sure to get travel insurance before you go anywhere.
There are all kinds of different travel insurance packages available depending on where you get it from. Some travel insurance extends year-round, covering multiple trips, so if you’re a frequent vacationer it’s worth looking into.
Staying on Budget
In order to keep a budget, it’s essential that you track all of your purchases. This is one advantage to societies that still use cash as their primary form of currency – you can watch your budget decrease. You’re literally bound to the amount of cash you have, so it’s hard to go over budget.
When you’re using a payment app or a credit card, you’ll want to find some physical way of tracking transactions. A pen and paper work really well – keep your receipts, and add up what you’ve spent at the end of the day, reducing the amount spent from your total budget in each category.
You don’t have to stick to each category’s budget exactly, but if you go over in one category, you should take money away from another category. For example, if you buy someone a particularly expensive gift, you might reduce your “eating out” budget by some. These budgeting tips should help you stick within your means.
The focus of this article is staying on budget, no matter what your budget may be. That said, there are a few quick tips to keep in mind if you want to lower the overall cost of your travel. Look for Airbnb’s with low rates and hostels to keep your accommodation costs even lower. Preferably, find spaces with a kitchen and close to the hot spots you want to visit to keep travel costs low once you’re at your destination. You can use the kitchen to cook, reducing your food costs.
Travel during the off-season to lower the cost of your flight; lodgings will often be cheaper on the off-season, too. Find out whether or not the country you’re going to is barter-friendly; if they are, go online to find tips on bartering in that country. You’ll often get much better prices if you learn some of the language spoken there.