Alright, you’ve taken the plunge and have decided to go on vacation. Woohoo! Go you! You totally deserve it. But now, the daunting task of planning and budgeting lies ahead. Some people don’t plan ahead and start vacation mode the second they book a ticket, then they’re left horrified by the amount that they’ve spent when the vacation glow fades. Other people count every penny on the trip and focus so much on saving money that they don’t get to fully enjoy their experience. Most travelers, like us, are somewhere in the middle. When we go on vacation, we want to thoroughly enjoy every second of it. We want to leave with as many memories and experiences as possible. However, we also don’t want to break our bank accounts within a few days. It’s so easy to overspend when you’re on vacation.
Once your mind goes into vacation mode, you want to buy everything! Those “I Love Paris” t-shirts with the Eiffel Tower just look so cute on the shelf. But then, you’ll take them home and they’ll lie forgotten on the bottom stack of your other 200 t-shirts. Or is that just us? Still, it’s difficult deciding what is worth spending the money for and what isn’t. So, we’re here with some budget tips for you to help save a little cha-ching on your next vacation. Here are 10 things that travelers should go cheap on and 10 things that are worth the splurge.
20 Luggage – Splurge
The very first thing you need on any trip is a decent set of luggage. Yes, it might seem silly to spend a chunk of money for a box with wheels, but trust us, it’s worth it. An excellent piece of luggage will make the trip so much easier to deal with. Let us paint you a picture. You’ve just landed in a foreign country and you’re at the baggage claim. You’re horrified to find that suitcase you thought you’d save a little money from is broken. Now you have to lug the thing everywhere you go. What a great way to start a trip. NOT. So make sure you buy a good brand; you won’t regret it. Even better is that most decent brands of luggage offer warranties, so you’ll be able to use it for years to come.
19 Hotels – Don’t Splurge
Unless you’re specifically traveling to an area for a resort, don’t waste your money on a super luxurious hotel. What is the point of paying an outrageous amount of money for a place that you’ll only sleep at? There are plenty of hostels that provide excellent services and have private rooms, if that is what you want. Also, with sites like Airbnb, booking a cheap place has never been so easy! You can even save a bit more cash by buying groceries and cooking at the Airbnb since most of them are people’s homes. Why bother paying for a mini bar that you won’t even use? Go out and enjoy the city! Not sitting in a posh hotel room surfing channels.
18 Power Bank – Splurge
In today’s technology-reliant world, the cellphone reigns as the most useful and necessary during a vacation. With a cellphone, you have a phone, map, translator, and guide, all in one. So when your phone dies halfway through the day, it’s a serious problem. Instead of being the one foreigner that goes into a restaurant and asks if they have an outlet, carry your own power bank. It’s a good idea to buy a decent one and stick it into your bag before you leave the hotel room. Cheap ones often break after a few uses in our experiences. So you might as well invest the money. Some of the better ones can charge a phone up to five times before it needs to be recharged!
17 Souvenirs – Don’t Splurge
This is one of the hardest things to stop yourself from doing when you’re traveling. Yes, the snow globe with the Eiffel Tower in it is cute. But you don’t need to be spending $20 on something that is only going to collect dust on a shelf. Instead, at each place that you visit, spend your money on maybe one or two really nice things to take home. Maybe buy a couture piece while you’re in Paris or a real leather bag in Milano. Spend your money on something that you’ll use and treasure, not throw away during your next spring cleaning.
16 Good Food - Splurge
Alright, we get it. Sometimes, when you’re so busy exploring a new city, you forget to plan your meals. A quick hamburger at the McDonald’s seems like a tempting idea. NOT. One of the best things about going to a new place is trying different foods. If you know you’re going to be in an area during your meal time, plan ahead to go to a decent restaurant in the area. Ask the locals where they like to eat. Don’t fall for the tourist places that everyone congregates to; they’re usually overpriced anyway. You can even splurge and have one 5-star fine dining experience during your trip. It will be worth the money!
15 Flights – Don’t Splurge
Flights are always the most expensive part of traveling and also why most people don’t want to go anywhere. But, there are ways to make sure that you aren’t spending a tremendous amount of money on your flights. Even if you don’t plan on taking a vacation anytime soon, sign up for email alerts. There are numerous websites that track flight prices and will notify you if they drop. If you can book a cheap flight and then plan your vacation around it, that would be ideal. Usually, people decided to go on holiday first and then look for a flight. However, this severely limits their options, and they typically have to settle on a price that could be lower.
14 WiFi Egg - Splurge
These things are an absolute lifesaver. Getting a portable WiFi egg to carry around with you when you’re in a new country is the best idea ever. We’ve already mentioned earlier that cellphones make traveling so much easier, and getting a WiFi egg helps! You can quickly get them at the airport and rent one for a few days. You won’t have to worry about paying for additional WiFi at the hotels, and you’ll have it with you everywhere you go. The prices are usually extremely reasonable, and the benefits outweigh the costs anyways. (Even better, the eggs are generally rechargeable using a portable battery. So if you have one for your phone, it will work for the egg too.)
13 Travel Agent – Don’t Splurge
There is absolutely no need to pay the money to a travel agent to plan your vacation for you when you can quickly do it yourself. Websites such as Skiplagged, FlyerTalk, Skyscanner, and many more will help you find the best deals for your trip. Even if you’re booking an Airbnb, they often list several favorite activities to do in an area. Travel agents get commissioned to send you to specific hotels, restaurants, and so on. So usually, you’re going somewhere that is specifically for tourists. It may seem like a good deal, but the experience won’t be worth it.
12 Day Tour – Splurge
In the previous entry, we said don’t use a travel agent, which we still stand by. But, an excellent way to spend your money is to book a day tour. We’re not saying spend every single day doing tour after tour. But, maybe for the first day, go on a city tour that will show you around. They’re occasionally free too! It’s a good way to get an overview of an area and talk to someone who really knows the city. It’s also an excellent way to create an unforgettable memory if you do an activity tour such as kayaking and hiking. It’s a good idea to have someone who knows the area and what they’re doing. Plus, you’ll have someone there to take your pictures!
11 Clothes – Don’t Splurge
We know this struggle all too well. You’re about to jet off to a new and exciting place and you need a wardrobe to match it. We’re telling you don’t waste your money. There is no need to buy an entirely new wardrobe before you leave. First off, you’re not going to want to pack 12 separate outfits in your suitcase; you don’t have the room. Instead, just pack a few pieces that mix and match, add in one nice outfit in case you go to a fine dining restaurant and you are set. Alright, we’ll let you indulge in getting a new swimsuit, but that’s it! Instead, you can get some new clothes while you’re traveling. This way, you’ll get your souvenir and new clothes at the same time.
10 Good Shoes – Splurge
We highly recommend bringing along one solid pair of shoes. Unless you plan on hiking the entire time, it isn’t necessary to bring hiking boots. We find that the boots are oftentimes too heavy and clunky to bring along. Most people if they decide to go hiking will be choosing paths that a good pair of tennis shoes will do. You don’t need to bring twelve different pairs of shoes either. One solid pair that you can wear every day and maybe a dress set for nicer evenings and you are set. If you really invest the money into a decent pair, those will be the only ones you need!
9 Transportation – Don’t Splurge
Unless you’re going to be in a remote area and a car is a necessity, don’t bother with renting a car. It’s usually expensive, and the insurance can get pretty expensive too! Most areas have fantastic public transportation (except it seems for the U.S.), so give that a try instead. A lot of cities even have unlimited day or week passes for tourists so you can hop on a train or subway as many times as you’d like for the day/week. It’s a waste to spend money on taxis unless it’s necessary when a bus or train is so much cheaper!
8 Hotel Location – Splurge
We already said earlier not to waste your money on paying for an extravagant hotel, but we will say spend your money on hotel location. It might seem like a good idea to get some place out of the city center because it will be cheaper, but you probably won’t save much. You’ll have to continually worry about transportation into and out of the city to get back to your hotel. Also, if you’re in the city center, chances are you’ll be much closer to popular sites, and some are probably even walkable. So try looking for places that are in the city center, since there will be so many options, it probably won’t be too much of a hike in price.
7 Credit Cards – Don’t Splurge
Before you go on a trip, MAKE SURE you check with your credit card company’s policy on foreign transactions. You could rack up a seriously massive bill if you go around using your card unaware of the ramifications. A lot of credit cards charge an additional percentage for each transaction. Instead, before you go abroad, apply for a credit card that is meant for traveling. Capital One, Schwab, and United Mileage Plus, for example, are great ones to use when you’re abroad. They charge zero foreign transaction fees and are easy to apply for. In addition, most debit cards will cost you a fee every time you pull out money in a foreign country also. So, make sure you double-check everything!
6 Vaccinations – Splurge
Take our advice. If you’re going to be traveling out of the country, swing by the doctor’s and make sure you don’t need a vaccination. You can also use websites like the CDC to double-check. When you go to a foreign country, you’re not just going to experience a foreign culture, you’re also going to be encountering some foreign germs and bacteria. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to getting vaccinations. Trust us, spending some money now before the trip rather than pay at a foreign hospital while you’re violently sick is a much better choice.
5 Tour Group – Don’t Splurge
If you’ve ever traveled or lived in a popular tourist area, you’ve probably seen the busloads of tourists that follow the person hoisting an umbrella or flag. Yeah, don’t be one of those people. It is a complete waste of money to book a trip that follows a tour group the entire time. Most likely, you’ll be on a bus for the majority of the journey and only be let off to snap a quick picture or use the restroom. Also, these tours always just take you to the same restaurants and places over and over again. Instead, maybe book a small group or private day tour as we mentioned earlier. The experience will be so much better.
4 Backpack – Splurge
When you travel, you should always bring a nice bag to carry all your necessities. Don’t bother bringing something like a purse that will give you a sore shoulder. When you’re exploring a foreign country, you’re probably going to be on the move a lot. You’ll want to carry extra money, water, maybe a raincoat or sunscreen, or a million other things. The easiest way to do this is to carry a small backpack. We don’t mean one of those hulking camping ones. A simple one will do. Just make sure you buy a good-quality one that can deal with the wear and tear and isn’t easy to pickpocket (major factor).
3 Exchange Rates – Don’t Splurge
Whatever you do, DON’T exchange your money in an airport. Yes, it is probably the most convenient, but it is also the most expensive. Exchange rates in an airport are usually the highest out of any other area to change money. Instead, before you travel, you should contact your bank and see if they will change the money for you. Some banks, like Wells Fargo, will exchange your money with zero transactions fees, and they’ll give you the best exchange rate. Also, if you get a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transactions fees, you can use it to pull money out of an ATM. Cards like Capital One only charge a small fee pullout money from a foreign ATM and will also give you the best rate.
2 Activities – Splurge
Each country has a list of incredible opportunities that you just can’t pass up. If you go to Egypt, you have to visit the pyramids. If you’re in Paris, how can you not go up the Eiffel Tower? Visiting China isn’t the same if you don’t walk part of the Great Wall. You get the idea. There are just some things that you cannot pass up when you visit a different country. So when you plan your trip, budget them in. Not all of them will always cost money, but even those that do would still be worth the extra penny!
1 Cellphone Charges – Don’t Splurge
Everybody knows that long distance calls are expensive. We understand you’re going to be abroad, but you want to stay in contact with people back home. Well, racking up your cellphone bill is not the way to do it. If you took our advice and got portable WiFi, then you don’t need to get an international data plan. In the world of smartphones, all you need is one of the many free apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and even SnapChat. You can use the WiFi to use the apps to contact everyone, and you won’t have to worry about paying a huge phone bill when you go home.