It’s been a year since I started writing our weekly Travel Money Tuesday posts on Solo Traveler.
I’ve given lots of advice for saving money before you travel and on ways to save and protect money while you’re on the road.
This week I want to turn some of my tips upside down by looking at the most common and problematic travel money mistakes and how to avoid them.
Let’s get started.
Worst Travel Money Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
- Not having a travel savings plan. I hate living from behind. Spending money first and then catching up with credit cards and loans is not only expensive but stressful. Formulate a travel money saving plan that works for you. Read How to Save Money for Travel for 12 tips on saving money. No advice to cut lattes. No talk of shorter showers. Just a solid how-to approach to saving cash for travel. Also read Money Games Make Saving for Travel a Little More Fun.
- Choosing the wrong rewards credit card. Every year I earn about $600 just by using my credit card. It’s worth choosing a card well but the card that’s right for you will depend on your lifestyle. Read: Deciding on the Right Travel Rewards Credit Card
- Not asking to have the single supplement waived. The single supplement is a major frustration for solo travelers. We try to show you some of the best single supplement free deals with our Solo Traveler Advisory of Deals and our Deals page. But if you’re looking at a trip that isn’t included in our list there are still things you can do. Read: No Single Supplement: Avoid the Solo Surcharge.
- Traveling without a budget. This results in the same problem as living without a saving plan. You end up behind the eight ball with your finances paying for the last trip rather than saving for the next one because you’ve overspent. Read How to Plan Your Solo Travel Budget – on Any Budget. Also read Travel Money: When it’s OK to Break Your Travel Budget.
- Traveling without a plan to find freebies. From free tours to free entrance to museums on specific days there are many ways to enjoy free things as you travel. Read Solo Travel with Fabulous Travel Freebies.
- Not knowing the hidden fees before you go. When you plan your travel budget you need to include all expenses, including fees that you might not think of off the top of your head. Hotels and airlines are notorious for fees. Know before you go. Read Find and Avoid Hidden Hotel Fees.
- Neglecting the security of your cash and documents. I have a safety hierarchy. It goes like this: yourself, your documents, your cash and your stuff. Yes, your cash and your documents are important. To protect them well read: Keep Your Cash & Cards Save: 10 Ways to Protect Yourself from Pickpockets.
- Ignoring the need for travel insurance. I have claimed on my travel insurance a number of times. I would never, ever travel without it. To learn what travel insurance I recommend and why read Do I Need Travel Insurance? Top Bloggers from 6 Countries Respond and Travel Planning: Morbid Stuff You’d Rather Not Think About.
- Using a credit card with a foreign transaction fee. Foreign transaction fees can be as high as 3% on everything you buy in a foreign currency. That applies even if you choose your home currency when in another country as the exchange still needs to be made. Fortunately there are cards with no foreign transaction fees. Read Manage Money. Avoid Fees. Keep Cards and Cash Safe.
- Carrying only one credit card. You never know when a credit card is going to give you trouble. I’ve had it happen in Jordan and Myanmar. Having a backup is essential.
- Incurring unnecessary ATM fees. Your bank can charge you as much as $5 for every ATM withdrawal you make in a foreign country. One strategy is to minimize the number of times you withdraw cash. Another is to choose a bank and account type that doesn’t charge this fee. Read Manage Money. Avoid Fees. Keep Cards and Cash Safe.
for how I get this service free.
- Exchanging money at the airport. Every time I’m at an airport (like right now as I write this) I see people at the currency exchange kiosks and I want to run up to them and say NO! But how rude would that be! The exchange rates at airport kiosks tend to be quite high. I typically go to a bank ATM as soon as I arrive in a destination to get some local cash. If you really want some before you go, order it from your bank. Read Save Money When You Change Money and Travel Currency Confusion? Tips for Coping with Shifting Exchange Rates.
- Not understanding the exchange rate. It’s an easy Google search to find out what your currency is worth relative to the currency of your destination. Turn it into simple arithmetic so that you can easily calculate in your head the cost of something.
- Not understanding the cost of living at your destination. My travel budget was hit hard when I went to Australia earlier this year. I knew that the Canadian and Australian dollars were worth about the same amount but I didn’t realize how much less the Australian dollar actually buys. Research the economy of your destination before you go. Read How to Avoid the #1 Travel Budget Mistake
- Ignoring your data plan restrictions. While most people have this under control now it is still worth mentioning. You don’t want to incur huge data charges. Read Use Your Phone Anywhere in the World: Free and Low-cost Options.
- Using public WiFi without a VPN. Read VPN for Travel: What, Why and an Easy Setup Guide and Eek! I Lost My Credit Card for just one great reason for having a VPN.
- Choosing your home currency at check out. In the last couple of years stores have started offering the option of paying with your home currency or theirs. Bottom line, choose theirs. Read Your Currency or Theirs? The Decision Makes a Difference for the details.
- Not researching tipping practices for your destination. There are countries where tipping is expected and countries where it’s not done at all and, just to make it even more complicated, there are places where you tip only in certain circumstances. Given that tips are usually in the 15-20% range, not knowing tipping practices could cost you a lot of money unnecessarily.
- Incurring extra charges for your luggage. When you purchase your air tickets the terms around luggage are made very clear. Make sure you read these so that you aren’t stuck with unexpected fees.
- Not informing your bank and credit card company that you’ll be traveling. Some banks still require this. Some don’t. To be on the safe side make sure that your bank and credit card companies know where you’re traveling so that they don’t shut down your access to money.
- Using your credit card to get cash. This is a big no-no. Not only do credit cards charge high interest rates but when you take cash from your credit card that interest starts accumulating immediately. When you buy goods with a credit card the interest doesn’t start accumulating until your next billing cycle.
- Reacting when you see a sign about pickpockets. When you see a sign indicating that pickpockets frequent where you are and urging you to be careful with your wallet DO NOT check to see if you wallet is safe where it is. Pickpockets hang around such signs to learn where people keep their wallets.
- Not checking the Deals sites. You may think of Groupon and LivingSocial as great sites to get deals at home. But they have sections of their sites devoted to most major cities. Check them out for coupons and special deals to save money.
- Forgetting the membership benefits that could save you money. Read Take Your Membership Benefits on the Road: 11 Ways to Save.
- Paying too much for airport lounge access. If you haven’t racked up sufficient frequent flyer miles to get free lounge access there are sill options. Read Cheap Access to Lounge Luxury: 5 Tips.