Paul’s sister Jennie, taking a leaf out of our book, travelled around the world in 2017. Before she left, she asked us for advice on how to go about her money needs on the road. We know there are a lot of other people out there who look for ways to minimise bank fees and maximise their travel budget. After all, you have worked hard to afford that well-deserved holiday, so why give a percentage of your travel savings to someone else (if you don’t have to)?
When to plan for your travel money needs?
Planning a trip should include budgeting for it so that you don’t feel the (financial) squeeze when you return and drain your recharged batteries by stressing over how to pay your bills in the weeks and months following your trip.
- Check websites such as Skiplagged or Skyscanner to see what flights to your desired destination tend to cost throughout the year. You can save heaps of money by avoiding peak-seasons or even just altering the weekday of your flights.
- If you plan to travel to one of the destinations we have been to feel free to check out our travel cost articles by selecting the respective country from the top menu. Alternatively, use Numbeo or Budget Your Trip to check what it would cost to visit your desired destination.
While most people already have credit and/or debit cards, it is worth shopping around for cards that charge the lowest fees (and get an additional card or change provider well in advance of your trip), especially if you are planning to travel for several months (or longer).
Finally, think about your cash needs at least ten days before your departure date and get organised.
So, how to make your travel budget stretch further?
When we researched for our trip in 2012 and again for our year around the Americas recently, we found a lot of information for American travellers. To our readers from the US: Consider yourselves lucky as you have THE BEST credit card offers out there. Even without awesome credit card offers, it still pays to apply some simple money savviness rules to make your travel buck stretch further.
So, here are our top tips when it comes to travel money… All tried and tested by us. We practice what we preach 🙂
That sounds complicated… Why bother?
Being mindful of bank fees pays… LITERALLY.
Check out the example below of bank fees incurred for a typical two-week overseas holiday of a family of four. Fees can easily add up to a few percentage points of your total travel budget. In the example, paying attention could save this family more than $160 over two weeks (the equivalent of one hotel night). Having applied these tips ourselves, we only paid USD187 in bank fees for a whole year of travel (0.3% of our total spend for the year).
For simplicity, the above example does not include all charges incurred during an overseas holiday.
Any final tips?
Don’t waste your time with pre-paid travel money cards. We found that their foreign exchange spread is higher than VISA / MasterCard’s, they tend to charge a fee to load (and close) the card, many of the above fees still apply, and they only support standard currencies. One of the benefits of using VISA / MasterCard credit cards is that you are able to dispute fraudulent transactions (usually by calling your card provider’s customer service). While you can dispute fraudulent transactions on prepaid travel money cards as well, we found the process to be lengthy and cumbersome (with claim forms to be submitted to your provider).
Load a currency conversion app onto your phone (for example XE) and set up all the foreign currencies you need while travelling. These apps show you wholesale foreign exchange rates which will allow you to check whether an offered foreign exchange rate is appropriate. Foreign exchange bureaus in particular often charge exorbitant FX spreads to the unwary traveller. Always check the rates before you change money!
Feature image courtesy of Chris Lawton (via Unsplash)