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8 useful tips to budget your next vacation

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next vacation

Most of us have that dream destination we’d like to visit or fantastic getaway planned out in our heads. And some of us might even already be saving for it. So, in full support of you achieving your travel goals, we’re giving you some personal budget tips to help you take the leap on your next vacation (without breaking the bank)!

Travel is an investment that should be thought out and adequately prepared for, so we’d recommend you stash away an emergency fund worth around 3 to 6 months of expenses before even thinking of planning a trip (or any other investment).

Remember that you might not earn any income while you’re away (especially for longer trips). This is why we suggest that any excess funds go to high-yield time deposits or be invested in longer-term facilities that earn value through conservative compounding or more aggressive brokerage.

With all that settled, let’s get down to business…

Before the trip

Preparation is key to almost everything, and proper planning could save you hundreds of dollars on your next vacation.

1. Plan way ahead

Realistically, your plans depend on how much you’re willing to invest and how long you intend to stretch those funds, so it’s important to choose the right destination and best time to go.

Destination

Airfares aren’t necessarily your biggest budget consideration. Your destination can actually make a big difference in how much you spend (or save).

You could lounge for an entire month on the beautiful beaches of Palawan (voted best island in the world 3 times over) for the same amount that’d last just a few days in cosmopolitan Paris, despite the Philippines being half a world away from France.

Season

The coveted sweet spot for travel is known as the “shoulder season,” which is midway between the low and peak seasons. It’s generally during the spring or fall, when tourist numbers wind down and airlines feel more generous (does Boston to Berlin for $100 sound good to you?). Find out when your intended destination’s shoulder season is and plan accordingly!

2. Mix a travel cocktail

Now that you’ve figured out an affordable destination for your next vacation, keep these tried-and-tested tips in mind as you start putting together flight itineraries:

  • Avoid buying tickets on Fridays and try reserving flights over the weekend
  • Flights during the week are generally less expensive than weekend journeys
  • According to your destination, book trips in advance by these time rules:
    • Domestic – 7 days
    • Caribbean – 17 days
    • South America – 90 days
    • Middle East & Africa – 144 days
    • Asia-Pacific – 160 days
    • Europe – 176 days

After booking tickets from point A to B, it’s time to plan your journey from B to C, C to D, and so on.

For shorter legs, consult local transportation resources for bus, rail, or sea options. These modes may take longer, but they also cost a fraction of similar trips by plane, with the bonus of delivering you straight into the city (rather than the outskirts) and allowing you to enjoy the scenery along the way.

3. Book a room, couch, or villa

Home sharing websites have shaken up the hotel industry, and it isn’t hard to see why. They offer a wide range of safe and affordable accommodations to suit all travel needs. Groups travelling together can pitch in on an entire house and solo travellers might be cool sharing a private bedroom with a pet cat.

On the extreme end of budget travel is couch surfing, when travellers sleep at a local’s home for FREE (with the expectation that they also open their homes to visiting travellers). Part of the appeal is that you get a very unique insight into the life of a city by personally engaging with your hosts (bringing simple tokens from your country is a great idea).

4. Make the most of stopovers

When travelling on a budget, there’s truth to the idea that ‘it’s not about the destination.’

If you’re travelling by land or sea, have a look at maps to check whether you pass any interesting towns or attractions on your next vacation. A short detour can lead to secluded beaches where you can watch the sunset, cafes where you can sample the local brews, or hilltops from which you can take in breathtaking landscapes. Or it could be a vast expanse of nothing, but at least you checked!

You might notice that the cheapest flights on comparators sometimes come with extended stopovers (in fact, some airlines even encourage it). Sometimes, it does pay to go off the beaten path—you may just stumble upon an unexpected highlight of your trip.

During the trip

Getting to your destination is just the start — there are many other simple ways to save a few dollars on your next vacation as you start exploring your new surroundings.

5. Sniff out cool activities

Reach out to your social networks or personal contacts. Let people know when and where you’re travelling, and ask for recommendations for things to do or places to visit. Perhaps a former colleague recommends a specific food truck that serves the best local delicacies. And you never know when a friend’s cousin is doing an exchange semester in the area and is willing to take you on an impromptu bar crawl through the historic city center.

An all-time favorite way to get a crash course on a city’s history and culture (and get a good exercise while doing so) is to take a FREE walking tour. These tour guides often have a contagious passion for their city and can’t wait to share all its wonderful secrets—tips are appreciated, of course!

6. Money matters

Listen. There’s NEVER a good reason to sell your dollars at the foreign exchange kiosks at the airport (or anywhere else, for that matter). These businesses make a killing off unwitting tourists by charging much more than actual currency exchange rates, so it’s best to avoid these middlemen as much as possible.

Before your next vacation, check with your bank whether you can withdraw from ATMs at your destination or use credit cards for international transactions. As long as they’re aware of your travel dates, there shouldn’t be an issue, meaning you can withdraw and transact in foreign currencies as you normally would at home.

At shops or restaurants, the POS terminals may give you a choice between paying in the local currency. As a rule of thumb, ALWAYS choose to pay in the local currency – paying in euros/dollars subjects the transaction to “dynamic currency conversion” fees and poor exchange rates, which may be on top of your bank’s international fees. 

7. Go with your gut

Make it a point to eat where the locals eat—be it street food kiosks, or crowded cafeterias. Avoiding fancier establishments offering familiar menus or catering to tourists pays off from both a cultural and financial perspective: you get a literal taste of the local culture, while also saving a buck.

Tap water isn’t potable in many countries, so always carry a reusable bottle of water. Many restaurants or cafes will refill them for free, so there’s no excuse not to stay hydrated (or shell out for that bottle of Evian!).

8. Go easy on souvenirs

As you’re bombarded with interesting finds and souvenir shops left and right, you may feel the pressure to buy a couple of souvenirs, either for yourself or someone else back home. Remember, though, that this trip is about YOU and building your own unique experiences. 

Having said that, we’re not telling you to not get any souvenirs at all—just be prudent about it. Keep things simple: a fridge magnet, keychain, or trinket here and there probably won’t hurt, but try to avoid obvious tourist traps by walking a couple of blocks further away from city centers or popular attractions. 

Bonus Tip: Have a positive attitude

Much less travel tip than general life advice, being positive and open can work wonders for your well being. And sometimes, keeping a smile can also literally save you money while travelling.

Travelling can be so much more than a relaxing break from your everyday grind—it can be a real chance to discover new things, connect with people, and yes, take wicked selfies. So keep these tips in mind with regard to your budgets, and let the travel bug take over on your next vacation.

Bon voyage!

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