Saving money when overseas
So your dream trip is nearly here; an overseas odyssey taking in new countries, cultures and cuisines. But is it really possible to fully explore other countries on a limited (retirement) budget? Of course it is, says YOURLifeChoices editor Debbie McTaggart.
Once you choose your destination, find out which airlines fly there and which routes they take. Air Treks Travel Planner allows you to plan your route and any stops you wish to make along the way. While you may be keen to get there quickly, taking a route which is not direct can often prove considerably cheaper.
Airline websites have tools which allow you to cost different routes, but before you book, it’s certainly worthwhile comparing these prices with some of the larger flight booking websites listed below.
And don’t forget high street travel agents. Although they may not be able to offer cheaper fares, they can often offer upgrades including airport transfers and value adds.
Booking fees can often add a substantial amount to your fare, so it pays to find a site which doesn’t charge such fees. Also, check how much a website will charge you to use a credit card as it may offer an alternative, such as a direct deposit or Paypal payment.
If your trip will be decided by where your budget can take you, rather than where you really want to go, then you may wish to try a website such as Skyscanner. It researches over 1000 airlines in real time and runs a ‘cheap flights’ tile on the right hand side of the home page, with the best prices to 10 destinations at any given time.
Once you’ve booked and are ready to go, take the time to carefully select your seat, especially if you’re travelling a long distance. SeatGuru lists the advantages and drawbacks of each seat, on different aircrafts operated by each airline. So if you don’t want to be located next to the toilets, or with severely limited leg space, take 10 minutes to get to know your aircraft.
Sometimes you need to think outside the box to find accommodation which both suits your needs and falls within your budget. Wotif.com specialises in finding the best deals at the last minute. If you’re willing to take a chance and book the ‘secret hotel’, you can often stay in a luxury hotel for a fraction of the normal price. The downside is that you won’t find out the name of the hotel until you’ve actually booked. If you’re planning on travelling for 10 days or more, then book all your accommodation through a site such as Hotels.com, where every 10th night is free.
Staying with friends can be a great way to travel on a budget, but not everybody has friends with a château in the south of France. Couchsurfing.org allows travellers to link up with hosts – people who have a spare-room, or couch, and who are happy to have short-term visitors in their home. One other way of getting free accommodation is to try house sitting. Websites, such as TrustedHouseStitters.com charge a fee to join, but you can then stay in homes across the world often enjoying the use of the homeowner’s car and the friendship of their pets.
B&B accommodation is not only an affordable way to travel; you also get the opportunity to meet the locals and find out about all the hidden gems in the area. Local tourist information offices are usually the best place to get listings for B&Bs. And if you’re looking for a real adventure, why not try a youth hostel? They’re not only for the young, but gladly welcome the young-at-heart.
Managing your money
Accessing your cash while you’re overseas can attract hidden costs. If you do plan on withdrawing money using your ATM or credit card, then check with your bank or card issuer which fees are involved, or which overseas banks you can use free-of-charge. It’s important to keep track of how much things are actually costing you, so create a quick ‘cheat sheet’ before you go by working out how much $5, $10, $20 and $50 will cost you in the local currency.
You may also wish to consider a preloaded currency card, which you can get from your bank, travel agent or Australia Post outlet. These cards can be loaded with up to five different currencies, making them a clever way to manage your money if you’re visiting several countries. You get a locked-in exchange rate, so you know exactly how much you have to spend and it can be used as a debit card for purchases. These cards can easily be recharged while you’re overseas through BPay. There are fees involved, so check what they are before choosing this option.
Keeping in touch
Of course it’s convenient to use your own mobile phone when you’re travelling, but call costs can be exorbitant. Purchasing a local sim card is the most cost-effective way of keeping in touch by phone; just ensure your handset is unlocked. You can also buy a Travelsim before you go, which enables you to let family and friends know which number you’ll be contactable on overseas and you only pay a set cost for calls in each country you visit.
If you can access free wifi, then Skype or Google Hangout are clever means with which to stay in touch. But don’t forget, if you’re travelling with a smartphone, that it’s important to switch off data roaming, or you could return to a shocking phone bill.
Things to do for free
Keeping busy and having fun while travelling needn’t cost a fortune. Why not make friends with your concierge, take time to chat with the barista in the coffee shop, or get a hold of a local English language newspaper to find out what’s going on in town for free.
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