Since I’ve made so many mistakes when it comes to money – yes in life – but particularly while traveling, I thought the least I could do is offer some advice (tried and true!) so that you can avoid doing the same for your next getaway.
Here are my top five money tips for travel that I now live by, after several horror stories that are now laughable lessons, of course.
1. Always keep local cash on hand, but not too much
It was a sunny afternoon in Florence, Italy when I’d learn the importance of always having at least some local cash on hand at all times. After devouring an entire pizza to myself (obviously) I found that I couldn’t pay for my meal because the restaurant was one of those feared cash-only spots and I was running solely on plastic.
Luckily this wasn’t Sicily, so the Italian restaurant owner was kind and trusting, directing me to the nearest cash machine down the street. As it turns out, there are many places abroad that accept cash only, so be sure to always have some local currency, but not too much that you would risk devastating your trip if you lost it.
2. Keep local coins for those toll booths and parking meters
Particularly if you plan on renting a car, please, dear God, always carry some spare change. After getting stuck at a toll booth in the South of France (and consequentially missing a flight to Paris) I will NEVER get on a European highway without an adequate amount of spare change again. Perhaps it was the many car horns and angered French accents that lodged this lesson deep into my mammal brain…
3. Use a prepaid Visa for expenditures, like my MogoCard
Perhaps my greatest travel companion, and a life saver when it comes to avoiding those ridiculous interest fees, is my MogoCard. Using a prepaid card will ensure you don’t go deeper in debt by traveling, both when booking your trip and while enjoying it. A prepaid card will keep your travel finances in check at all times, and you can forget about the interest charges on a cup of gelato or a cappuccino.
Remember: your likelihood of over-indulging financially is at an all-time high when you’re on vacation, so put a stop to it before it gets you, and leave your credit cards at home.
4. Don’t buy every meal in a restaurant
So, you’re on vacation, and yes, you want to eat. I know, I know. But you’ll be surprised at how quickly three meals a day in a restaurant adds up even in more cost-effective parts of the world. When I was really going all out, the most I’d allow myself was two restaurant meals/day, but often I’d find alternatives for days or weeks on end.
Other options: If you’re staying in a hotel, definitely take advantage of complimentary breakfasts – even be a little sneaky and wrap up some snacks to go. If you’re renting a room or an apartment on AirBnB (usually my preference) hit up the local market and buy some eggs. Eggs are affordable almost everywhere, are nice and filling, and can be made to-go (hardboiled). Otherwise, grab a hot dog or a taco, and always have bottled water to avoid (often) ridiculous watering fees in restaurants.
Fun fact: Bananas are cheap, energizing. and available virtually everywhere.
5. Separate your financial assets while on the go
It was on a fateful day in Thessaloniki, Greece when I learned this extremely critical lesson: separate your assets. While fearful travellers worry about muggings, I was simply too distracted by the exotic beach coming into view that I jumped off the bus I was riding and left my Michael Kors wristlet on the seat. I was certainly sad about the purse, but mostly I was freaked out that I’d just lost all my cash (which was luckily not much) as well as all of my debit and credit cards. I literally had no money and no way of getting any!
So the lesson here is: don’t put all your money in one place. Slip your credit card or your prepaid Visa into your bra, or get creative and duct-tape it around your abdomen. Whatever works!
PS. Thank the sweet God of travel that I’d somehow remembered to stow away my passport safely back at my apartment rental… though I had lost the keys along with my money… hmmm….
Take my money/travel advice and be an explorer and adventurer, not a financial tourist!