Here’s your guide on how to manage your budget while travelling
Money, Money, Money! The most important factor when it comes to travelling. We all wish we had more but it is about managing your budget that will take you a long way.
If you are not smart it can drain your savings because you know it’s easier to splurge on a night out in Mykonos than splashing out on a meal in Mayfair in routine. I feel quite lucky when it comes to managing finances on the road because I work in a bank and financial management comes naturally to me, year of training has something to do with it I guess.
One way to manage your finances is to always set a budget before any trip and try to stick to it. Yes, I have gone above a few times but setting a budget is important because I can spend based on that estimate instead of coming back from a trip with my finances in ruins.
Creating a rough estimate is the first step and with tickets and accommodation in place, it is easier to set aside some money for activities, food and other stuff. You can read more about finding the best flight deals here, and finding the best accommodation here.
Advance tickets are almost always much cheaper than buying tickets on the spot. This is true for everything from plane tickets to hotels to concerts to city passes and it also saves you from queuing up and removes a lot of uncertainty. Here is my guide to planning the perfect trip.
Beware though; you need to be flexible with this and not plan every hour of every day because what’s the fun in that?
Divide and Rock
NEVER keep all your cash and cards in one place be it your luggage or on your person. My mother always made sure of this and this has saved my ass more than many times.
Keep it Simple
I know it is tempting to have loads of credit cards, debit cards, traveller checks and all that beautiful foreign cash but keep it simple. The more cards you have the more difficult they are to manage and you might end up paying with the wrong card or a forgotten bill can ruin all the money you saved otherwise. I keep 1 main debit card, 1 Credit card and 1 card as a back up in the hotel, not on me.
Choose the RIGHT Bank
This is not only for travelling but for everything in life and a good bank with the right accounts can save you ridiculous amounts of money. You can choose a good bank for yourself in terms of travelling and it is not as difficult as it seems. I have practically stopped looking for foreign exchange conversions and never had a surprise charge from my banks since I chose the right account.
1- Choose a bank that allows Overseas Cash Withdrawals without any charges or in case you can’t find that go for the least amount in charge. Also, clarify what other charges will you bank levy for overseas cash withdrawals.
2- Next step is to check the charges for overseas transactions, which means using your card to pay instead of withdrawing cash. My credit card allows me unlimited International transaction free of cost
3- Ask if they have any travelling related Products they offer.
4- Ask your bank which exchange rate they use for overseas transactions and if they use Visa rates, you’re in luck because they have the best exchange rates.
For everyone in the UK, I cannot recommend Nationwide enough. If you have a Flex Plus Account, you get International Travel Insurance as well as phone insurance for just £10 a month along with other benefits. They also do not charge me on withdrawing cash anywhere in the world through my debit card and I can use my credit card to pay for things without any charges anywhere in the world. They also use Visa exchange rates which are the best in the market versus any foreign exchange converters. You can check the details here.
With a lot of new Challenger online banks popping up everywhere like Starling, N26, Monzo etc which provide great services for international travelling, airport lounge access and many other features but I like Nationwide because it provides me everything in one platform without having to open 2 or 3 accounts for specific features.
Visa Travel App
You can check the exchange rates through the Visa Travel app. It has the up-to-date exchange rates.
Use Credit Cards Smartly
Choose the right Credit card and you can benefit not only in terms of saves charges but also rewards. There are cards available that allow you to pay for things worldwide without any charges while also providing you with points. Don’t believe me? Have a look at the Nationwide Select Credit Card.
No fees, no commissions, no charges for worldwide use and they use visa exchange rates for conversion purposes. It also offers cashback and my last year reward was £160 which is a weekend trip somewhere for free, how does that sound?
Frankly, I don’t like them because they work best for high spenders and there is also an annual cost.
Use Credit Card Disputes
One way of managing your finances while travelling is to book hotels on a credit card. I prefer doing that because it doesn’t cost me for currency conversions but also it protects me in case I do not get the service I paid for. This can be done by raising a dispute with your bank. For instance, I booked a car through an agency and paid in full but the company went bankrupt before I could get the car. Since the service hasn’t been provided I raised a dispute and got roughly 70% money back. This is particularly useful because this scenario isn’t covered by insurance.
Cash Withdrawals Abroad
This is a slippery slope because you can be stung three different ways; transaction cost, commission and bad exchange rate. You can avoid these issues by selecting a bank account that doesn’t charge you for international withdrawals and uses visa exchange rate. To make sure this rate is applied, when the Cash Machine offers you to use a fixed rate or open rate, opt for open rate. This will ensure the exchange rate used between your bank and the bank you are withdrawing from is the Visa one because banks have a bad habit of offering bad exchange rates by default.
Paying Now vs. Later
I prefer paying in advance where it costs me less to do so. This is a good way to save up money and in most cases the difference is substantial. In some cases, there is no difference or it is really small, there I prefer paying later because money sitting in the account of an airline is not earning you any reward. Also if you cannot go for whatever reason, you will have to do less paperwork for insurance.
Be careful though because you want to be sure you have the service/hotel reserved for you and it is not conditional. You can use your Credit Card to secure most booking or reservations.
Travel insurance is more important than you can imagine. It is not just when you miss flights. It helps you with accommodation issues, loss of documentation, some help with cash advances and the biggest one is medical support in a foreign land in case you need it. That’s why it is crucial in managing your finances while you travel.
This is one item that can cost you a lot if you buy travel insurance on ad hoc basis for each trip and before you know it will add up. To avoid paying a lot:
1- Try your bank and see if you can get it through them as an add on. I get it from my bank and it saves me from paying any money for Travel Insurance Worldwide. It comes as part of my account upgrade under Nationwide FlexPlus Current Account.
2- If your bank doesn’t offer it, go-to travel insurance comparison website and purchase it for the whole year instead of a few days, it will definitely save you money. In the UK, you can use Compare The Market or Money Super Market for comparison.
Tip: Make sure your Travel Insurance covers your age and all activities that you plan to do. In some cases, you might need to buy additional cover like Winter sports or dangerous activities.
To optimise your Insurance expense choose a policy that doesn’t require a lot of excess and doesn’t offer ridiculous amounts. For instance; do you really need £1000 baggage cover when you are travelling with a hand carry? These things add up and cost you more.
Read more about staying safe during solo travelling here.
Roaming and Hidden Charges
Hidden charges and the fine print can be lethal especially when it comes to phone bills. Always check with your provider about the roaming charges and the caps on the usage to avoid a surprise bill when you return home. In EU, your provider CANNOT charge you for roaming on your existing plan, it is illegal.
Split Pricing is an amazing tool technology has given us. It involves splitting the cost based on nights or destination. Nightly and Tickety Split are two amazing sites that help you with this goal for accommodation and trains.
Use Airbnb when Away
When you are away your room/house/apartment is sitting idle. You can turn that around with Airbnb. Make an ad and keep the listing free when you are travelling. This will not only make you money, but it will also connect you with people from other places and you can get some help and information when you go to their city. What’s that thing about two birds and a stone again?
There are loads of freebies available which you can use smartly to save money that would cost you a fortune otherwise.
Most national carriers and non-budget airlines offer miles for travelling and most of them are part of some alliance which means if you travel with partner airlines the miles keep pooling. Over the time these miles can end up in a free flight or hotel booking.
Tip: Keep an eye out for the miles option when booking tickets. It always shows the partner airlines in case you don’t have a frequent flyer account with this airline.
Tip: Always create an account when booking flights with airlines. This not only helps you keep track of flights but also the miles.
Air Miles Credit Cards
Free Walking Tours
Free Walking Tours are a great way to learn about any city, meet travellers and do it all while managing your budget. Almost every big city offers these tours. Make sure you check and book in advance because some of them absolutely require you to do it.
Get Paid to Walk
How would it sound if I tell you that you can get a free gym shirt and also donate a few pounds to charity just by walking around when travelling? Thanks to technology you can now convert your steps into something tangible for you and also for Charity.
Download Sweat Coin app, it counts your steps and converts them into Sweat Coins which you can use to purchase stuff from their store which has quite a few quirky stuff. I absolutely love this app. I purchased a box of Cricket protein bars with my trip to Romania. 😉
You can use the same steps to donate to charity by downloading the Charity Miles app. All your steps will accumulate and you can donate them to the charity of your choice.
Ever thought you walking around could be so rewarding?
Need some motivation to hit the gym when on Holiday? Download Pact App. Make a Pact for the week, if you hit it you get cash and if you don’t, you pay up. That definitely reduces some of the pain I feel in the gym on a holiday.
Free accommodation is not only possible it is going to be amazing if you love animals. With Trusted Housesitter will be staying in someone’s house looking after their pets for FREE. The only money you pay is for the website membership which is negligible. It is on the rise and if you are an animal lover, this can save you loads with the comfort of a home.
Couch Surfing is the free version of Airbnb. If you have time and don’t mind sharing spaces it can save you money. I prefer my own space so not my cup of tea but you never know right?
Find more tips and tricks about travelling here.