If you’re planning longer-term travel, it’s a great idea to be smart about your funds and how much you spend, otherwise you may find your travel dreams being cut short. You don’t need to be wealthy to travel to places you’ve always dreamed about, you just need to be money-savvy, stick to your budget, and follow these tried-and-true tips for smart spending while overseas.
There’s a few ways to do this. Number one is to prepare a travel plan. An hour-by-hour itinerary might be a bit much, but prepare a travel plan of:
- Each place you’ll be in
- How long you’ll be there
- How you will get there
- Must-do activities
That way you won’t blow money on spontaneous travel, accommodation or last-minute extras.
Before you start your travels, put together a budget. Once you have your plan, jot down an estimate of associated expenses, and try to stick to it. If you go over your budget one day, don’t stress, just try to balance it out with a quieter day until you’re back on track.
Lastly, buy a little pocket diary and keep track of every dollar you spend, even if it seems insignificant at the time. Assess your expenses at the end of every week and see where and how you’ve spent your money, and if you’re sticking to your budget. This is also a great chance to give some direction to your spending habits and keep you focused on your goals.
Slowing down your travel time will also slow down your spending. Stay in one place for a few days, work out where the cheapest places are to eat and drink, and take time to walk and explore, rather than spending money on travel and constant activities. Also, consider travelling out of season. Avoid popular holiday periods or school holidays, as this tends to be when the travel industry hikes up prices. Research the best time to visit your intended destination and see if you can travel either just before or after these dates.
If you’re lucky enough to have family or friends overseas, try to stay with them (even if it’s just for part of your trip). Think of accommodation as an opportunity, the chance to immerse yourself in the people and culture of your current destination. Yes, sometimes you will just need to spend a comfortable night in a swanky hotel, but as a long-term situation that will quickly eat up your money. Plus, you can lounge by a pool or watch TV in bed at home!
Cheap accommodation doesn’t necessarily mean backpacker hostels. Explore Airbnb, couchsurfing, locally-run guesthouses, or accommodation out of town. After all, what do you really need? Somewhere clean and comfortable, with some amenities and a bed.
Locals will usually have a good idea of the best and cheapest food, so ask advice or simply keep an eye on places that look busy or attract a crowd. This can be street food, sit-down restaurants, or a quiet hole-in-the-wall place for a coffee. It can be tempting to stick to western-style food because it’s familiar and less risky, but that will generally be more expensive. Most restaurants and vendors will all get their food from the local market and if the locals eat there, it’s probably safe. Cook at home (if at Airbnb, etc), keep alcohol to a once-a-week treat, and buy cheap meals at markets.
Local markets can be a cheap food source as well as an introduction to the culture of the country you’re visiting. Buy local produce or snacks, clothes, souvenirs and gifts, or just wander around stalls and immerse yourself in the local noise and colour. Keep in mind to buy only what you need. Splurging might be good for a quick holiday, but with longer-term travel, impromptu purchases will soon add up. Plus, you’ll have to cart everything around! If you’re travelling from country to country, consider buying just one small memento that captures what you loved about your destination.
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