Ah budgeting! My least favorite subject to talk about; but nonetheless very, very, very important. Y’all have saved up for a big upcoming trip to your dream destination. if you’re lucky, you might have scored a promo ticket with a big discount. But how about the trip itself? I’ve seen even my most frugal friends succumbed to the retail temptation in Tokyo and came home stressed racking up the credit card debts. Nightmare! We don’t want that to happen to you; afterall, your trip must leave you with happy feeling instead of guilt and stress of overspending. So, here’s some tips that can help you to save money on your vacation abroad!
But it’s my vacation! I want to have FUN! I hear you baby. I’m sure that you’ll want to splurge (which you totally deserve to) and have the best time on your life; but some steps can be done to save your hard earned money even before you hit the road. I’ve asked my friends and colleagues who have been traveling around the world smart, happy and still within budget to supply me with even more tips! So without further ado, here are the ways to actually enjoy your vacation (AND splurge) without breaking the bank:
Thank you to Melvin Roberto (MR), Vicky Tanzil (VT), Andre Wiredja (AW) and Yohan Liliyani (YL) for contributing to this post!
- If you’re traveling with a big group, consider staying in AirBnb rather than hotels. For the same price or a couple rooms, you can get a whole apartment equipped with kitchen, washing machine, etc. This will save lots of money because you can cook your own meal, wash your clothes and save you from unnecessary clothing spending because you are ‘out of clothes to wear.’(Ok we know that the ‘out of clothes to wear’ is a lame excuse you’re giving to yourself to shop. We’ll get on the shopping section later.)
- If you’re traveling solo and you don’t mind sharing space, you can really really save up by staying in Hostels (or even couchsurfing), and this is a great way to make new friends too! ~AW
- Be smart on your hotel budget. If you plan to be out in the daytime (or even nighttime) everyday, there’s no need to book a beautiful, expensive lodging if you only use it for sleeping.
- A hotel that’s not in the heart of the city center might sound more money saving, but do check their approximate distance to the attraction you want to visit and whether they have easy access to the city’s transportation system. Spending a lot of money on commuting fares might not be as economical at all, and wasting your precious vacation time on the road is even more so! ~AW
- Find out what’s included and NOT included in your room rate, some hotels may charge guest for using the phone, Internet, parking, etc. I’ve racked a EUR200 phone bill in Utrecht once, making a local call #stupid, and despite my shock, tears and pleading look, I still had to pay a hundred to understanding hotel manager who kindly managed to cut the bill by half.
- If breakfast is not included in your room rate, don’t bother to add it. Chances are, it’s overpriced and won’t be good (unless you’re staying in a five stars hotel and money is not a problem (which might puzzle me why you’re still reading this.))
- Don’t exchange your money in the airport exchange bureau, unless it’s an emergency. The exchange rates in the airport can be really, really bad. At the very least, exchange enough money to pay the stuff that you urgently need, like your bus ticket.
- Instead, use the ATM machines in the airport to withdraw cash. Most banks charge a $3 to $7 fee per transaction, so withdraw the cash you need for your trip (and keep it somewhere safe), and avoid multiple withdrawal when possible. Find out which foreign bank in the country you’re visiting that your bank is partnering with. I use BCA and I can practically withdraw money almost everywhere.
- Never withdraw cash from your credit card at all costs, because you will be hit with high interest rate charged daily, not to mention transaction fee cost. Your credit card have this weird exchange fee calculator system that I, you and noone can ever understand about, only the bank. Withdraw only using yout debit card, pay with cash whenever possible and only use credit card for your emergency. ~IRV
Airport Transfers / Arrival
- Pack an empty plastic tumbler with you, you’ll use it throughout your trips. Drinking water dispensers are available inside most international airports and it will save you unnecessary purchase of expensive water in the airport kiosk or restaurants. ~MR
- If you know you’ll be stranded in the airport for a few hours before connecting to your next flight, pack a sandwich with you too.
- Check your time of arrival! If you arrive in the middle of the night, you’ll have no other option than taking a cab to your lodging. It’s better to arrive in the morning/daytime. Trust me, you don’t want to take a half hour cab ride in Japan. ~MR
Food & Drink
- If you’re traveling to Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Canada, US, Australia and most of the big countries in Europe, you can drink the tap water safely and the abovementioned tumbler will save you tons of money.
- In fact, ask for a jug of tap water when you’re dining out in Paris. It’s free.
- Do your groceries! I’m sure you’ll want to visit the most raved restaurant on your dream destinations, but eating out 3 times a day won’t go good for your budget. Instead, head to the grocery shop or (even better yet) the local market and get yourself some bread, cheese and fruits that will fill you up.
- Having a big, hearty dinner that you can’t finish? Don’t shy away from asking the waitstaff to pack it and enjoy it for your breakfast the next morning.
- When traveling with a group, you can save up by sharing pizza together. Or anything else that can be shared. ~AW
- Bring instant noodles for emergency food. Indomie is for lyfe. ~VT
- I complained to my Mom when she was taking her mini rice cooker with her to Paris; and turned out that I used it even more than her LOL! Being a true Asian girl, nothing is more comforting than having warm rice for breakfast, even though only accompanied by fried egg and beef floss.
Commuting & Transportation
- Always consider enjoying your destination on foot! So spare yourself from cab fares by wearing comfortable footwear for walking.
- Taxis isn’t a feasible option if you want to stick within tight budget. As much as the idea of taking the crowded subway for the first time might scare you, it’s more handy than being stuck in a traffic with the taxi meter keep going up. Find out beforehand which public transportation system can take you to your destination. ~YLGoogle Map is very handy for researching this, especially in bigger cities. All you need to do is input your starting point and destination, and it will give you options of public transportations from bus, metro to trams, with information on numbers, lanes and fares.
- If you’re traveling between countries in Europe, take the night train or night bus into consideration. Not only will you save sightseeing time in the daylight, you’ll also save money from one night lodging rate. Before you know it, you’ll arrive to your destination in the morning. Just don’t forget to set your alarm so you won’t miss your stop.
- If you already have the exact itinerary on your hand before the trip, look for transportation deals online in advance. I scored the train ticket from Amsterdam to Paris for a really cheap price when I booked it online two months beforehand. This will also eliminate the hassle of getting in a long line and attempting to communicate in a different language to get your ticket.
- Some cities/countries might also have local transportation deals that also cover attraction entrance fees like 3 days pass tickets in Europe, PASMO or JR Pass in Japan or Swiss Rail Pass Card. Research well on it, and you’ll save a lot from spending on one time passes or museum visits. ~MR
- I know the cute keychains and fridge magnets can be an impulsive purchase when you’re visiting an attraction, but remember that: a. You might not really need them afterall, b. They’re heavy and will take up space on your luggage, and c. Photos make the BEST memento of your moments, so take as many photos as possible during your trip and skip the kitschy souvenirs!But if you do really want to bring something home, look for free and more interesting stuff like: city maps (I collect these), disposable beverage coasters or matches that you get in the bars, museum tickets (I collect these too), and many more! I have a coffeeholic friend who collects the paper espresso cups from all over the world.
- There’s no point of shopping in the retail stores that you also have back home. Instead, look for local markets or antique markets where you can find one of a kind, traditional products with prices lower than the bigger stores. Remember to haggle like a pro, though. Read more about shopping in Marrakech Souk here.
- If you want to go out for shopping in some countries, carry your passport with you in a safe place. You will need it to get a tax free invoice for your purchase (which will save you lots of money.) All you have to do it fill up and sign a form and you’ll get refunded 15% sales tax/VAT of your purchase back / or deducted from the original price. Just remember to show up earlier in the airport before you fly home because you might need to submit the form at the GST Refund counters.Tax-free shopping is currently available in the following countries: Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam.
- A lot of places in Europe will give you super special price if you’re a minor/student/above 65; so bring your student card anywhere if you have one. Students will get 50% discount on most museum entrance fee, transportation, accommodation, and even shopping! I’m really jealous for this.
- A lot of destinations offer free attractions throughout the whole city! Most of the city’s park and garden are free so you can take a morning stroll freely there. Some big galleries and museum have a dedicated day of the month when the entrance is free. Always research for free attractions online.
- Do not waste time or money for activities you can do back home. Cinemas will feel pretty much the same everywhere in the world, for instance. This also applies to restaurants or retail shops that’s also available in your home country.
There you have it! I hope some of the tips might be useful for your trip. Most importantly, make choices wisely so you can maximize your fun without being broke! Do you have any more tips and experience that you can share? Let me know on the comment section below, love! Kisses!14