Today, budget-minded international travelers who conduct thorough research and have the assistance of a knowledgeable, savvy travel professional have plenty of options and alternatives that should satisfy their need for thriftiness and value. Here are some tips for how you can plan your budget for international travel to help you have the vacation of your dreams:
It is important to consider what season it will be at your travel destination when you arrive. Often, there are tremendous bargains to be found when you travel to a location when it is not the height of their usual tourist season. Then, plan to learn as much as you can about anything that might have an impact on your travel costs - for example, the tipping rate and if gratuities are included in the cost of services, the cost of transportation, the cost of meals, if travel documents like Visas or immunizations are required, and what is the weather will be - in order assist in choosing the best season for traveling and to know what type of items you may need. This also includes determining your “must-see” spots and how much it costs to go. Many international cities offer various discount cards for travelers to visit various sights, as well as discount transportation passes, like London’s oyster card that allows you to travel on the underground system, many of the national rail services, tram and buses. Make sure to find out about the free or low-cost options to visit like national parks and churches. Plan to take advantage of visiting the local markets, to soak up the culture and perhaps enjoy some low-cost local food.
2. Craft A Budget: Make a spreadsheet or use a pen and paper – it is up to you but making an actual budget is a must. Understand what costs are fixed, like your hotel and plane tickets. You can keep these costs down by booking your ticket in advance and not at the height of the tourist season, if possible. Make a list of variable costs – things that are constantly changing and that your choices can affect the price, like food, transfers, communications. You can find out much of this information through online research conducted in the planning stage and by speaking with a travel professional.
Plan a budget for your meals. Remember to budget for a couple of splurge meals – you are on vacation after all! Remember to factor in the cost of bottled water, as you may need to drink only bottled water in some countries. Also, control your drinking budget. If you enjoy beer and wine, try to stick with the local brands, as they are often the best price.
As for your transportation budget, instead of taking a private transfer like a taxi, consider a shared ride or public transportation. Taking public transportation to see some of the sights will help reduce costs too.
Buy items ahead of time that you may need before you leave like sunscreen, a hat or a scarf that may also double as a head covering if visiting a church or a mosque, and over-the-counter remedies for headaches, motion sickness, or upset stomach. Items like these are often costly or may not be easily accessible abroad. Do not forget to plan for use of your mobile devices. Check with your carrier about possible roaming charges and inquire about temporary phone rates.
Finally, plan to have access to one and a half times more money than what you need. Having more money available to you does not mean you have to spend it. The funds can be used for a possible emergency or for a once-in-a-lifetime activity or experience. Try to get the most value for your dollar. Before you go, check at the availability of ATMs. It is generally better to use ATMs to get best exchange rate over the exchange brokers at the airport or cashing travelers check at the bank. It is best to contact your bank before you travel and let them know where you are planning to travel to ensure that you bank does not stop or limit your transactions while you are overseas. It is also advisable to bring a backup credit card for emergencies.
3. Purchase Good Travel Insurance: Travel insurance protects travelers from unforeseen circumstances after they have already paid for their trip. For budget travelers this is even more critical, as they often cannot afford to pay for unforeseen “big–ticket” expenses. Travel insurance provides protection if they have to cancel the trip because of personal emergency like a death in the family or errors on the part of the airlines or travel companies. It also protects travelers if emergencies arise once they reach their destination and provide 24-hour travel assistance.
Most policies include coverage for loss luggage, loss medication- you can get emergency prescriptions filled; theft – assistance with loss passports and get emergency cash; assistance with medical or dental emergencies for accidental and treatment in foreign countries. Many people think that their health insurance carriers will cover them abroad – some may but often it will take a long time to be reimbursed or they may not cover the entire situation. Some medical providers abroad will not accept U.S. insurance. Most policies cover accidental death and repatriation of remains; include coverage for events that may require evacuation for example acts of nature like typhoons or hurricanes or act of terrorism; coverage for flight cancellation. Additionally most covers travelers if the airline, cruise line or tour operator files for bankruptcy and finally, the insurance often covers non-refundable expenses.
Although travel insurance is often perceived as a financial burden by many travelers and often even travel agents do not always recommend it for fear of increasing the price of the vacation and possibly losing the client - offering your client travel insurance is one of the best pieces of advice a travel professional can offer - especially for the budget traveler. If you are prudent in your research and budget planning – your trip should be at a comfortable price and the cost of the insurance will not be a burden. Most policies cost about 4-8% of the trip cost but if any of these emergencies situations arise – it will be totally worth it.
4. All- Inclusive Vacations: Depending on where you are going – consider taking an all-inclusive trip. The benefits include the ease of not having to deal with money - once the trip is purchased most things including gratuities are taken care of for you.
With almost everything being included – a budget traveler can focus on relaxing and not worrying about the next expense. An all-inclusive vacation can be more economical in the long run also. A traveler knows how much they are going to spend thus they have more control then a typical vacation. No real surprises! Today, many travelers are looking for value - the best bang for their buck - and all inclusives often provide it.
At all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America depending on the season, you may be able to get a fairly good bargain. All- inclusive resorts vacations generally include the air, accommodations, food and drink, entertainment and most activities like entertainment and non-motorized sports being included – once you have paid your fare – most of your budget is set. Variable cost may include travel documents, immunizations that may be required, off-resort excursions, spa treatments, etc.
A budget traveler also may want to consider a river cruise. Generally known as a luxury vacation, – with some prudent planning a budget minded traveler could take a fabulous vacation and get a tremendous value. There are many river cruises through Europe, including Russia, in Egypt on the Nile and to Cambodia and Vietnam. Many river cruise companies often offer specials on airfare and the cruise itself-sometimes offering 2 for 1 pricing. Most of your costs are fixed and you know about them in advance and you can budget your funds. Again, all inclusive trips most often include, the air, the accommodations, food and drink – often including alcohol, some sightseeing and activities, like entertainment and non-motorized sports like bicycles that can used free of cost to transport yourselves around the city or into the county-side. As on any vacation, you may still have to plan and budget for Visas or immunizations, you may need, funds to purchase souvenirs, etc.
5. Think Outside Of the Box: There are several alternatives to the average and familiar hotel room. How about using some of the non-hotel accommodations websites? AirBNB offers private rentals including rooms, apartments to treehouses and boats; Couchsurfing, is a hospitality exchange site where you can stay with local in almost every country on earth; it has 7 million members; and you can learn about culture, food and language first hand; or BeWelcome, a non-profit, open source and member run service where you find a place to stay with local hosts home from all over the world. These sites are great sources for adventurous budget –minded travelers who want to explore the world but have limited funds.
Also, regarding air, if you have plenty of time and patience and do not mind multiple layovers at inconvenient times you can often get deep airline ticket discounts. If you are equally patient and flexible, you can use frequent flier miles but using them may also mean dealing with various changing restrictions.
Finally, regardless of your travel budget, the reason why we travel is create dream travel experiences and memories. Whether on a budget or not make sure that as you plan your vacation that you make that your goal!