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How to Save Money While Traveling Abroad

By Cat Alford
May 19, 2017

Planning a trip abroad is both an exciting and time-consuming process. However, if you’re willing to put in a few extra hours to find ways to create a budget and save money on your trip, you may be able to make your dream vacation a reality.

A budget, for example, will not only make your trip more affordable but also more memorable. Why? If you overspend on your trip, you may be faced with huge credit card bills when you get home – overshadowing your favorite trip memories. You may also feel guilty if you spent too much. With a budget in place, however, you’ll hopefully think back on only the good times and all the ways you managed to score great deals.

Once you’ve got a budget in place, here are some examples of how you can plan and save money on your best trip yet:

Travel During Off-Peak Times

Although it might be easier for you to travel during the summer or over Christmas, these are usually peak travel times and prices are generally higher. So, you might want to try traveling during off-peak times when crowds are thinner and prices dip down. You’ll save on hotels, plane tickets and even excursions. Plus, if you have available airline points, you’ll be able to find fares for fewer points, hopefully leaving you with leftover air miles for your next trip. To start your airfare research, check out this great resource.

Location, location, location

Although finding a great deal on a hotel room is important, you also want to take the location into consideration. Remember, even if you find a nice hotel that seems like a bargain, it might not be worth it if you have to rent a car, take public transportation or even take a taxi to get around. You might be surprised that staying in accommodations that are slightly more expensive might actually save you money in the long run if they are walkable to popular tourist destinations and sites.

When looking for accommodations in a walkable location, it’s a good idea to research all of the available options, include hotels, bed and breakfasts, and rentals on Airbnb and HomeAway. To start your research, go to Trivago, where you can compare hotels from 200 plus booking sites. You can also click around on Google Maps as this syncs with Google to show you hotels in your preferred area. When you zoom in and click on a hotel, the hotel’s website and room prices will typically pop up on the sidebar.

Also, be sure to read reviews before you book anything so you can see what other tourists think about the various accommodations you’re considering. My go-to website to read travel reviews and view actual pictures of accommodations (vs. the pretty ones by professional photographers) is TripAdvisor.

Exchange Your Cash Currency At Home

Many people exchange currency at the airport when they arrive at their destination, but this will usually mean you’ll spend more money on higher exchange rates than you’d get at your bank at home. To avoid this, consider getting currency before you travel at a local bank. If you’re crunched for time, you can still avoid exchanging money upon arrival overseas by using an ATM to get cash in local currency.

Use a Card With No Foreign Transaction Fees

One of the easiest ways to spend money while traveling is by using your credit card. It’s not only more convenient, but you don’t have to worry about someone stealing your cash. However, not every debit or credit card waives foreign transaction fees, and these fees can add up. To avoid this, use a card that does not charge foreign transaction fees, even if it means getting a new card before you depart.

If you prefer using a debit card, Chime is one of the few banks that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees (they actually don’t charge any fees at all.) This makes it easy for you to use your card for most purchases abroad without extra charges.

Figure Out Cell Phone Expenses and Options

One thing that still perplexes many travelers, even tech-savvy millennials, is how to use a cell phone abroad without getting charged exorbitant fees. Again, it’s better to be proactive than to be stuck with a big cell phone bill.

The best thing to do is talk to your cell phone provider ahead of time. Most cell phone companies now have global plans and you might be able to get onto a plan that will save you money abroad. You’ll also want to be aware of roaming charges or any other fees that might arise if you use your phone while traveling.

Another option is to get a cheap phone abroad or order a foreign SIM card ahead of time. This will enable you to make local calls while you’re traveling. Also, keep in mind that your smartphone should work on WiFi and depending on where you go, WiFi may be readily available as you roam about. If you need a bit more WiFi reliability, you might want to consider renting a portable wireless device. I traveled abroad for a month last May and used the company Tep Wireless so I could blog on the go.

Protect Your Investments

There is nothing that will derail a trip faster than losing your passport, wallet or something else that’s important. Trust me, you don’t want to waste a whole day of your trip sitting at an embassy getting an emergency passport. You also don’t want to go through the hassle of contesting credit card purchases or dealing with identity theft. This, above anything else, can cost you big bucks.

It’s important to keep your passport on you at all times and not leave it in your hotel room. You can also wear a money belt, which is sort of like a fanny pack but more discreet and less awkward. For more options, a quick search of “portable safe” on Amazon will show you a variety of items that may suit your travel needs, from small hard safes to backpacks that double as secure safes.

Your belongings aren’t the only things you should think about protecting. What about the cost of the trip itself? Perhaps the best way to protect your trip investment is by buying travel insurance. This way, if you have to cancel your trip or your luggage gets lost and you have to buy clothes, you may be able to recoup your costs. And here’s a tip: before buying travel insurance, research and pick the type of coverage you want on sites like and SquareMouth. If you’re a savvy comparison shopper, you’ll be surprised at how little you’ll spend for peace of mind.

Use Travel Apps to Help You

Lastly, don’t forget to use free travel apps. These will help you find restaurants, tours and other information about your destination. Some good options include Triposo, which can help you plan a trip based on your budget, Yelp, and Healthy Out (for the health conscious.)

Ultimately, if you take the time to research your trip ahead of time, you’re much more likely to save on your travel costs. This, in turn, can help free up spending money on your trip and even help you save up for your next adventure.

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