How to Avoid Unexpected Travel Expenses From Unpreparedness
It’s a little spooky to see advertisement banners follow me around every website I visit after typing in a few travel-related searches on the search engines. It’s like having the salesperson breathing down your neck when you just want to be left alone and browse around at the departmental store. Don’t they get it?
This shadowy form of advertising is called re-targeting. And it is freaky. But it must be very effective for advertisers for them to spend so much of their advertising budget on them.
When we are shopping for the best deals on flight tickets and hotel bookings online, we are simply seeking the best value we can get for our buck. It must be stated however, that no matter how much you can save on your travel arrangements from deal sites, the money you save means little when you need to incur impromptu expenses for being an unprepared traveler.
These are the most common ways to avoid costly traveling mistakes.
Use cash whenever possible
If you put together the amount of foreign currency you have in your secret vault, you probably have enough to pay for a few mortgage installments. But you are never going to use them for that purpose because there is something on the back of your mind that you will visit that country again some day.
The foreign currency might even be a cute memorabilia reminding you of your travel adventures. If you are to change them back to your local currency at the money changer, you get charged another transaction fee. That’s 2 transaction fees you ultimately incur if you add up the one you initially incurred when you bought the foreign currency with your local one. That’s really a waste of money.
The chances of using them in future are slim to none unless it is a country you frequent. How many countries have you visited more than once?
The leftover cash we end up with at the end of trips can often be a source of frustration. Especially when you have charged many purchases on your credit card during the trip. You could have avoided those charges had you made good use of the dollars sitting in your pockets. Even worst, the bank charges you currency conversion charges at rates which you have no say in.
Don’t keep the hard cash for just-in-case moments. Don’t for a moment think that you might need them at the duty-free boutiques in the airport. Just use them when you can, or you will be left with a pile of them in a cabinet drawer at home which you never open.
Buy flight tickets and accommodation in advance
Airlines and hotel chains often run promotions throughout the year. You don’t need to be a genius to realize that the promotional rates are meant for travel dates months in advance. You cannot realistically expect to get a promotional rate when you are flying off next week. These promotions actually do occur occasionally. But it would take an incredible amount of luck for you to claim them at a travel date which matches yours.
There are many online websites these days that allow you to book in advance. They aggregate information from multiple sources for the best prices. And they run their little promotions too. It’s not that far off to imagine that you could save 50% off your flight and hotel when you book them early.
The oldest travel advice you can find is to travel light. So long has this tip been advocated that you could probably find it in engraved somewhere within the walls of the Egyptian pyramids.
When we think about traveling light, the problem we often think that we are trying to avoid is the cumbersome task of bringing them along for the ride. That is just the surface. Because carrying an entourage of baggage with you on the journey can cut deep into your pockets as well.
Firstly, there is the transport of them to the airport that might incur extra expenses. Then, there is the fees for checking excess baggage into the airline. You get to your destination and then have to pay for a bigger taxi able to load up your stuff. Unless you are a miser, you might then have to pay extra tips to the bell boy to help with your luggage. Do you even have to buy extra travel insurance?
Let’s not forget that the more you carry, the more likely you are to lose something. And we say all these without even mentioning about the flurry of souvenirs you would buy on your travels which will hulk up your luggage. These expenses then repeat themselves when you travel back home. Scary isn’t it?
Check into a cheaper hotel
One of the biggest expenses you incur on holiday is the accommodation. Unless you are completely intent on traveling in luxury, booking a room in a less extravagant hotel can be a real game changer to your travel plans.
In many popular cities around the world filled with tourists, 5-star hotels often share very similar locations to much cheaper hotels. Some people might classify them as motels or hostels. Whatever. The point is that they provide lodging so as you have a safe place to sleep and spend your nights.
Look at it this way. If you are visiting a place like Bangkok or Hong Kong, you will be spending all your time in the streets and points of interest. The hotel essentially is just a place to recharge so that you are raring to go the next day. You don’t need to sleep in a luxury hotel.
Downgrading from a luxury hotel to a satisfactory one can save you hundreds of dollars per night per room. That is enough money to make your adventures more indulging and fun. After all, what’s worth remembering are the activities you did on your travels. Not the places you sleep at.
A selfie at a famous landmark would probably get more shares than a wealfie at a rich hotel too.
Get a guide book
I was in Seoul earlier in the year. And in such a place where most people are not fluent in English, you really need to take charge of your itinerary so that you get to do the things you wanted to do in the first place.
Even the guides you can find over there are in Korean. I even called phone numbers supposedly for English speakers and end up with customer service representatives who do not speak English. At the airport, when I was buying a ticket into town and spoke in English, the counter lady replied in Korean. It would have been a nightmare had I not have a handy mini travel guide with me.
I can imagine taxi drivers driving around in circles because they don’t understand where I’m going, going to spin-off tourist sites when the actual place is somewhere else, taking the wrong train towards the wrong direction making a messy situation worst, ending up in expensive restaurants when a cheaper and famous one is just across the street, etc.
A simple guide book does not take up a lot of space in your bags. And it will pay off in gold.
Be flexible in amending your plans
Sometimes we can get so caught up with achieving our travel objectives that we become stubborn travelers hell-bent on following the plan. This is understandable to a certain extent. For example, can you really live with yourself if you are making a once in a lifetime trip to Paris and fails to see the Eiffel Tower up close?
But other than visiting these well renown international landmarks, other things can often take a back seat when you discover something new. For example, you might have read from Lonely Planet that a certain restaurant is a “Must Try”. But upon your visit, you realized that there is a cheaper restaurant that the locals recommend above that “Must Try” place.
You do realize that these “Must Try” places are often paid editorials, right? In other words, disguised advertisements.
At times like these, there’s no shame to strike off that “famous” restaurant and move on to other pastures. Being stubborn can be expensive especially when you have to back track to a location just to put check mark on your travel cheat sheet.
The first thing to do after checking into your hotel is to locate the supermarket
Once you have settled down your stuff in your hotel room, you should find where is the local supermarket so that you can stock up on essential items and basic groceries. This helps you avoid situations when you have to buy something essential at a premium store, and avoid the costly bar counter filled with cheerful snacks in your hotel room.
Things you might want to keep in mind include: disposable undergarment, instant coffee mix, instant noodles, drinks and beverages, mineral water, snacks, zip-lock bags, energy bars, etc.
Don’t buy souvenirs
Tourists souvenirs have some of the highest margins around in the retail industry. This is because there is a huge element of emotions associated with them. A simple shirt with the picture of a famous city on it can cost $1 to manufacture and sold for $19. Can you imagine how you are sliding your money into a shredder by buying them?
You might feel like you are getting a piece of Italy by buying a Roman Colosseum paperweight replica. Guess what? It’s probably made in China.
Anyway, these days the best souvenirs are the pictures you can easily take and videos you can record with your smart phone. So don’t waste you money on those souvenirs. Selfies are quick and easy.