Traveling the world can be enlightening, enriching, thrilling, and treasured. However, one thing it rarely is is cheap. Part of conundrum can be attributed to the high costs of airline tickets and accommodations, while some of the extra expenses can actually be traced back to mistakes we’re making as travelers. Like what, you ask? Here are five examples of ways you could be wasting money when traveling.
Five Money Traps to Avoid When Traveling
Booking a room with unneeded amenities
There seems to be a misconception among the general public about what hotel star ratings actually mean. While it’s true that the number of stars a property boasts does often correspond to how fancy it is in some aspects, what’s actually being measured are the services and amenities the hotel offers. With this in mind, you may find that paying extra for a boost in star rating may not be worth it.
Another thing to consider when choosing a hotel is how you’ll be utilizing the room during your stay. For example, if you plan on enjoying some lazy days at the resort, you might look for a property with a pool or other fun features. Meanwhile, those who plan on hitting the city hard during their visit likely don’t need a super upscale room or resort — just a place to store their stuff and get a few hours of sleep each night.
Personally, when I book hotel rooms, my first priority is location. Is it in a safe area? Is it close to transit? Are there restaurants or other dining options nearby? After that, I’ll start to look at the amenities — with an emphasis on those that can actually further save me money. That said, you know I’d be lying if I said that the photos provided for each property didn’t play at least some role in my final decision, but I feel I’m usually pretty good about finding a balance between posh and practical.
Only doing paid activities
When most people begin planning a trip to a new city, their first thought is to look up a slew of activities and have something planned for each day of their visit. Often times these activities also come at a price. Sure, there will be some must-dos and once in a lifetime opportunities that you’ll want to pay out for, but there may also be just as many free activities to enjoy in any given locale.
One of my favorite things to do in many of the cities I’ve visited to set aside at least one day to simply explore different areas without an itinerary. Although there may be some findings along the way that cost a few dollars, I’ve also had amazing days of just strolling, taking in the atmosphere, and not spending a cent. Not only do I recommend this form of travel plan from a frugal perspective but can also say that it’s helped me gain a new appreciation for and perspective of some of the places I’ve spent time in.
Exchanging too much cash
This is one I’ve definitely be guilty of. As I’ve said before, I do like having at least some local currency on hand when arriving in a different country — but exchanging a bundle of cash ahead of time usually means you’re overpaying. Sure there are some exchange outlets that will offer you better rates than others, but your best bet for getting a good deal is either hitting up an ATM at your destination or simply using credit cards during your trip (more on that in a minute).
Of course, even if you avoid the temptation of over-exchanging before departure, you still run the risk of collecting too much currency while away and ending up with extra cash when it’s time to go. That’s why you’ll want to be mindful about how much cash you’re pulling out at any given time and try to walk the line between maximizing your ATM visits and ensuring you’re only taking what you need. Obviously, you could always exchange any leftover foreign funds for U.S. dollars, but this will once again cost you a steep fee. Instead, if you have plans to revisit that country, you can hold onto it for your next trip. My wife and I were actually able to do this with our recent trip to Paris, negating our need to even get any other Euros beforehand. If a return visit is not in your future, worst case scenario, perhaps you can gift the foreign cash to a friend heading in that direction for some karma points.
Paying foreign transaction fees
As I mentioned, in most cases the best way to get a fair foreign exchange rate is to utilize your credit card. Unfortunately, this plan really only applies if your credit card offers free foreign transactions (and if the country you’re visiting has high credit card acceptance rates). Otherwise, you could be adding 3% or more to every purchase you make while overseas.
To determine whether your card charges foreign transaction fees or not, you’ll want to review your card issuer’s info sheet. Foreign transactions should be listed within a fee table with a percentage or dollar amount. Ideally, you want that percentage to read “0.” Personally, I’m a big fan of the Uber Visa card because it not only offers 0% foreign transactions fees but also rewards me with 4% back on dining, 3% on flights and hotels, and more (and, no, they don’t pay me to promote them).
Now is also a good time to note that you may encounter the option to pay in U.S. dollars or the local currency at some overseas retailers and restaurants. Although selecting the USD option will save you a potential foreign transaction fee, be aware that the exchange rate is likely not very favorable. In most cases, you’re better off selecting the local currency accepting your card’s fee — or, you know, getting a new card before your trip. 😉
Not taking public transit
Finally, depending on where you plan to visit, public transit will likely be your best option for getting around during your trip. Despite the growing popularity and relative affordability of ridesharing options like Uber or Lyft, utilizing these services to navigate a new city can get real pricey real fast. Similarly, between gas prices and parking fees, renting a car might also be financially inefficient.
Obviously, the feasibility of taking public transit to fulfill your itinerary will vary greatly on your destination. That said, an additional tip I’d offer is that, for cities that offer extensive train or bus service, you may want to explore day pass, week pass, or other options that could save you even more. As an added bonus, these types of passes typically give you unlimited rides, which can come in handy if you end up making some mistakes while learning your way around — trust me.
Traveling and vacationing is often a time to let go of your worries and stresses. For some, this includes forgoing frugality and spending money without much forethought. However, for those of us who want to save as much money as possible while away, there may be a few common mistakes we’re making that are working against that goal. Hopefully, these few tips can help you correct that problem for your future getaways — maybe even enable you to enjoy more travel adventures as a result.
This article was first published on Money@30.