Research has proven that travelling makes people smarter. But, we didn’t need research to tell us that. Exchanging stories with fellow travellers and experiencing new cultures stimulates the brain and helps you look at life with a fresh perspective. Such an enriching experience! But do you really feel smart when you check your bank accounts once back home?
No matter how well people plan their holidays or other travels, most will always overshoot their budget. The problem is not a lack of financial planning but failure to understand the budget-damaging power of certain, often overlooked, travel habits. These habits look harmless on the surface but then quietly build up to quite a neat sum at the end of all that globetrotting. Let’s look at these habits so you can avoid them on your next holiday and stay within your budget – definitely a smart move.
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- Let money (Ex)change hands at the right place
Getting foreign currency at a good exchange rate is one of the biggest challenges you must overcome before commencing your travel. We Indians have a knack finding clandestine money-exchange shops in nooks and crannies and getting foreign exchange for a bargain. But when we are in foreign lands and money runs out, we hop over to the closest exchange shop and willingly accepting high conversion rates.
Another sin we commit regularly is exchanging money at the airports. Airport exchange counters boldly advertise zero commission charges, but more than make up for it by applying a high conversion charge. You might ask, what are the options?
There are many. One being asking your bank to give you a Credit Card curated especially for international travel. This will allow you to withdraw and swipe all you want for an affordable cost. Even the charges to withdraw money at an ATM in a foreign location will be friendly as compared to withdrawal charges on your regular card. Of course, International Credit Cards don’t come free. There are a plethora of fees and charges involved, but together they can be cheaper and cost less than changing money at exchange counters abroad or at the airports. Be wise, be smart. Consider all the possibilities, compare prices and then take a decision.
- Package Tours Don’t Pack A Punch
Package tours are popular among us budget-conscious Indians. Let’s just accept it – we are too lazy to make our own itinerary, set a budget and then stick to it. How many Indians have you seen backpacking? We see billboards screaming “Destination ABC at just Rs. xxxx per person”. Then we multiple this number with the number of members in our family, and, most often, are quite content with the resultant figure.
First thing, these trips are rushed. Second, travel companies will take you to a few popular places, but then you’ll never get to experience the place truly. It’ll all be very superficial. Lastly, many times, the tour packages are not all that economical in reality. If you plan wisely and smartly, you can explore a lot more for the same price.
So the next time you see international packages for Rs. 59,999, hold your horses. Plan your own itinerary and see if you can cover more for the same price. Be wise, be smart.
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- Insure Yourself Against Insurance
One thing we Indians are good at is finding middlemen to do the job for us – be it applying for a passport, Aadhaar Card or getting a Travel Insurance Plan. With everything available on the Internet today, you don’t need middlemen to do your job. They charge a fee for doing the running around for you, you know. If you have managed to plan your own trip, do a little research and get a Travel Insurance Plan of your choosing. Agents won’t be able to give you as many choices as you can find online. Moreover, they might push you to buy a particular plan which might not feel all that assuring. Read a few articles about what constitutes a good insurance plan and then look for one which has those features. You’ll save the fee you would otherwise pay to the insurance agent.
- Booking Tickets Way Ahead Of Time
How do people from other parts of the world afford travelling for months at a stretch? For one, their home currency might be the stronger Dollar or Pound. But the secret is, they plan ahead of time. They plan and book their tickets many months in advance. This saves them several precious bucks which can be put to better use at the destination. Adopt this strategy. Purchasing flight tickets is one of the biggest expenses you incur when planning a holiday. Last-minute bookings throw your budget off balance. Imagine, half of your holiday savings going towards purchasing a very expensive and yet uncomfortable economy class flight ticket. Make sure that your economy class tickets stay economical.
- International Or Local – Staying Connected
All those exotic pictures in a land far away from home – send it to best friend immediately on WhatsApp and post it on Facebook and Instagram for everyone to see and heart. But damn the internet charges when on international roaming.
So, all you did is call your operator and asked them to activate international roaming on your phone? Not good enough. Do you know you can get temporary SIM cards especially for your international holidays? The tariffs are easy on the pocket.
You don’t have to wait to return to the hotel for free Wi-Fi. Stay social on the move, even if you are beyond national boundaries.
Sometimes, people take SIM cards at the destination, often given free by the local telecom providers. This might work to your benefit in some cases but often the tariff on these cards is quite high. Our suggestion is to ready your phone for international usage before setting sail for international waters. And of course, most tourist-friendly destinations are filled with cafés and restaurants that offer their patrons free WiFi.
Do remember that holidays are all about disconnecting from the humdrum of your everyday world and unwinding. It would do you good to actually give your phone a rest while travelling. You can share those pictures once you’re back on home turf.
- Home Stay Or Hotel?
Hotels are comfortable with everything you need at your beck and call. A home stay is equally comfortable, minus the luxury of calling the reception for everything you need. Choosing home stay over a hotel can help you save a lot of money. This is especially true if you are travelling in a big group. Isn’t it fun to have a house all to yourself in a foreign land? Don’t mistake a home stay for something ordinary. You can pick a home which looks like the ones you find on those fancy luxury home websites – with a pool and all that jazz. Moreover, when the cost is being split between several people, the per-person break-up will snugly fit within your budget. Think of the privacy as well. A pool to yourself. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?
Additional Reading: Travel Finance
- What About Food?
An important part of travelling is eating all the fancy grub you can get your hands on. But three square meals a day plus incessant snacking may not be so good for your tummy. It might not be too nice for your wallet either, especially if you are travelling to Europe. So what should you do to keep yourself and your wallet healthy on a holiday?
Opt for budget food now and then. Do it like the backpackers do! Get some bread, add some jam and butter and you are good to go. Even if you pack some for the day, it won’t take up much space in your backpack, sling bag, or any other kind of bag. Also keep a stock of protein bars, especially if you are roughing it out. It’ll give you the energy to keep going. Moreover, protein bars are highly effective killers of odd-time hung pangs. Not all of them taste bad.
Look for accommodation that provides a complimentary breakfast with your stay. These all-you-can-eat buffet-style breakfasts are a great way to get a powerful start to your day, keeping hunger at bay for hours after.
- Take It Easy With The Transportation
The best way to explore a new place is on foot. Take a waterproof backpack, some protein bars and a bottle of mineral water and you are good to go. Walking it up will help you build a sense of familiarity with the place. The best way to truly explore a place and connect with the local folk is on foot.
Observe the people and their lifestyles. Once you return to your home country, this experience will stay with you, trust us on this one. Also, opt for public transport when walking isn’t a feasible option. Public transport is an economical and comfortable (most of the time) way of getting around a place. Using public transportation is also a good way to make new friends. Talk to people who are sharing the ride with you and ask them where you can go and what you can do other than the usual touristy routines. Locals will give you tips and suggestion that no guide or guidebook ever can.
- Shopping Shenanigans
Travelling is about meeting new people, exploring different cultures and spending time with oneself. In some cases, it’s also about shopping. But if you are just going to shop, well, you didn’t have to spend a fortune to fly all the way over. You could have just used the Internet.
But for those who cannot resist shopping, here’s an advice – know when to pull the brakes. You might not be planning to return to your travel destination anytime soon, but this doesn’t mean that you buy up the whole country. Yes, we are Indian and we must take back individual gifts for the entire family. But, hey, souvenirs will do just as nicely. They are small and inexpensive.
If you are a shopaholic, try avoiding marketplaces at popular tourist areas. Everything will have a marked-up price. A smart thing to do is to steer away from the prime shopping arena and shop where the locals do. Even better, take a local along to help you get the best bargains.
Additional Reading: 12 Clever Ways Indians Save On Travel
Aren’t these travel tips easy and doable? Try them and travelling will assume a completely different meaning in your life. It will also leave your bank account less dry. More money left for your next holiday!
Psst, don’t forget your Travel Insurance before you take off.