Eight travel budget blunders

Do you often find yourself daydreaming about adventures in a foreign land, or picture yourself stretched on a sun lounger next to an all-inclusive pool bar? Well, you’re not alone. Australians love to travel – research shows we spend more on it than most other countries.

Most of us have, at some point or other, grappled with the ‘holiday budget’. Trying to fit flights, hotels, meals, visas and more into a tidy lump sum is difficult enough. But add in foreign currencies, fees and projected future bank balances and the ‘guesstimated’ end result rarely reflects reality.

Here are a few things we invariably forget to budget for, or at very least often get wrong …

1. Alcohol
Most people can’t budget booze properly in their own country, let alone when they go overseas, and once you’ve tasted a few cocktails with the local spirit the allure of the ATM might be too great.

Alcohol can be especially difficult to account for in advance, as nobody wants to admit to themselves or others that after a couple of cold ones they might, just possibly, lose a bit of fiscal responsibility.

Write out a budget beforehand and plan for a few nights when you can splurge a little more on alcohol.

2. Transport
You may plan to avoid taxis and stick to the local buses and trains, but this can be called into question when you’re trying to read a local map, translate signs or lug suitcases to an elusive bus stop.

Most of all, beware the airport transfer. When you’ve just arrived in a far-off land, laden with baggage at the end of a potentially gruelling flight, deciphering the local bus system may not be at the forefront of your mind.

If there’s one taxi trip you may want to budget for, it’s the airport to hotel transfer, but ensure you do some research before you set off to avoid an outrageous fare.

3. Admission fees
You can pay precisely nothing to visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Opera house. Or you can shell out $100 to enter Madame Tussauds in London, $160 to see the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, and $80 to enjoy the view from the Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

Check out local museums and galleries for cheaper days out. Research the best free things to do wherever you’re going and save those entry prices for things you really want to see and do.

4. Water
We know, it’s just water, but it’s easy to take hydration for granted from the comfort of a well-plumbed home. Luckily some hotels offer a few free bottles of water per day but don’t rely on this. Tap water isn’t always an option, and you’ll be surprised how quickly bottles of mineral water add up. 

5. Currency transfers
The better you budget for everything else, the easier budgeting for this becomes. If you know how much you’re going to spend, you can shop around for the best rate and only suffer one commission.

Before you leave, find out what ATM fees your bank might charge for withdrawing cash overseas, or how much they will charge on contactless payments in a store. These fees may be avoided by having a prepaid travel card. These can help you sick to your budget by locking in the exchange rate before you leave Australia.

Tip: When paying by card overseas, it’s typically better to choose to pay in local currency. Retailers often use a less favourable exchange rate than banks, so it’s usually better to allow your bank to handle the conversion.

6. Food
Have you really visited a country if you haven’t tried all the local delicacies? Well, maybe you’ll pass on crickets and chicken feet, but don’t forget to add up the snacks from the outdoor markets, or the extra scoop of gelato that may catch your eye.

You know at the end of a meal when everyone has paid for their food, but there’s still a large chunk missing from the bill that no-one can explain? That’s what will happen with your food budget, and you can note down every after-dinner mint and still somehow drift into overdraft.

Beware cover charges, bread charges, and simple failures of arithmetic.

7. Mobile phone charges
Oh boy, this one can hurt. GPS your way to your hotel, answer calls from an unknown number, or neglect to turn off data roaming, and expect a list of charges that will drop your jaw to the floor.

Don’t budget for it – just don’t do it.

8. Those nice little extras
Some on-trend beach clothes and a new pair of sunnies, a local cocktail you’ve never heard of let alone tasted, a trip to the souvenir shop and a nice meal to end your stay … The whole point of going on holiday is to relax and revel, so put some money aside for those extra indulgences.

A conservative budget doesn’t have to be doomed from the start, just take some time before the holiday to decide what you can and can’t splurge on. Decide whether seeing the sights and learning the local history is more important to you than staying in the best hotel or buying a souvenir in every city, or vice versa. 

A good framework can whip a weak resolve back into shape, and we all know how tempting that extra cocktail or massage can be when in holiday mode. 

What common holiday budget mistakes do you make?

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Written by Ellie Baxter


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