Whether you are sticking to a tight budget while traveling or not, no one likes to waste their hard-earned money on travel budget busters that can be avoided. After five years of travel, I’ve learned a thing or two—mostly from trial and error—that I’d love to share with you.
Here are my top travel budget busters to avoid!
Watch Your Drinks
Travel can make you thirsty—whether you’re hopping on a redeye or wandering around a new city. You’ll probably find yourself spending too much on beverages—a glass of wine here, an overpriced latte there, and two more water bottles than you actually need.
Is it a party night? Enjoy a beer with friends in your room or the hostel lounge before you head out for a night of drinking or dancing. While you’re out, try some local beer or liquor—these are usually cheaper than imports like Heineken or Budweiser.
Ask the reception where the locals go to have fun—that way you avoid the tourist traps.
In many countries, coffee is an overpriced luxury. Avoid chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts and try a local barista. Sometimes they’ll even have a local flavor… oat milk in Iceland, anyone?.
Order a regular coffee and you’ll often get a refill unlike with those expensive cappuccinos and lattes you have to order one by one.
A one-of-a-kind souvenir is like a memory you can hold and take back home with you. Checking out the marketplace for something fun and memorable is a great way to interact with locals, practice your threadbare language skills, and do some shopping.
But look out for the market faux pas: the impulse buy!
You can often end up with much more than you bargained for (and more than can fit in your suitcase). When out shopping, have a loose idea of what you’re looking for: a boomerang from Australia, an ostrich egg from South Africa, a straw doll from Belarus. This will help you focus.
Keep your eyes open throughout the day—even when not actively shopping—just in case you stumble on something truly unique.
Phone Charges and Mobile Data
Using your phone abroad, if not properly set up, can cost you a pretty penny. As long as you have wireless connection, you can use anyone’s WiFi abroad—mobile data is another story. Make sure you speak with your service provider about international options. It can sometimes switch on international data at a low cost for a limited time.
Always tap into WiFi when its available to you!
I’ve been traveling with a Skyroam WiFi hotspot, and I couldn’t go back. You literally just turn on your hotspot and it’ll automatically connect to the local network. Just check Skyroam’s coverage map before you go to make sure you will be covered, and you’re set. You don’t need to register or even know which local networks you are using.
Currency & Credit Card Fees
You’ll want to check with your bank for any potential international ATM fees or direct card charges that may apply during travel, before you embark. Many banks charge a percentage for each transaction and often more for ATM withdrawals.
While you’re on the phone with the bank, provide the names of the countries on your itinerary—failing to alert your bank of travel may cause your cards to be blocked. And that would be a BAD start to a vacation!
Airline Fees and Extras
More and more airlines are charging by the item—for the seat, for food, for extra bags. Save yourself stress and hassle by arranging all of it online prior to your trip. Before your flight, log in to your itinerary on the airline’s website with your confirmation code and pre purchase any extra items or services.
Need an aisle seat in economy plus seating? Buy it online. Carrying more bags than the allotted one or two? Buy it online. Airlines will often charge you extra if you make any of these arrangements at the airport on your day of departure.
HELPFUL TIP: If you have been looking to get a travel reward credit card, I recommend applying for one before a big trip or purchase. Some of the biggest benefits are earning points to use for free flights and hotels. Plus, many cards offer additional points when making travel-related purchases. Some cards also offer travel protection when you pay for a trip with the card.
My personal favorite is the Chase Sapphire Reserve (for frequent travelers) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred (if you’re just starting out)! Check out my favorite travel reward credit cards!
Accidents do happen and often when you least expect them. You may fall ill with the stomach flu or sprain your ankle walking the Spanish Steps. In these instances, you’ll be thankful for travel insurance.
Buy enough insurance to cover your nonrefundable costs and any emergency medical expenses. Look for a plan that will cover you before you go as well as while you’re on the road. I have an annual plan with World Nomads, so if I’m ever delayed, miss a flight, or catch a bad cold while traveling, I’m covered!
There’s even travel insurance to cover specific types of travel—are you a photographer? Make sure the plan includes electronic theft or loss. Are you an adventure sports enthusiast? There are plans for you too.
Best case scenario, just having insurance will ease your mind.