All text and photography by Tess McLennan ©
There are certain things in life that must be spoken about. Money is one of them, although it has to rate amongst my least favourite topics of conversation. Knowing how to deal with money while overseas is a skill I’m still honing, even after many years of travelling. So read on for some of my wisdom, shedding light on how to get the most of your dollars while playing tourist, foreign or domestic. Money is important, so be wise about it.
1. Know how much you want to spend overseas and stick to it.
What are you planning to do overseas? Jump out of a plane? Go wine tasting? Whatever it is, budget for it. Are photographs your ultimate souvenir, or do you like to collect antique teapots in the shape of famous monuments? Whatever you like to buy, budget for it. Being in a foreign country and running out of money is quite scary, speaking from experience. If you’re one of those people likely to overspend while travelling (like me… but every piece of clothing I’ve bought is worth it!), set yourself a daily budget. I always travel with a prepaid credit card, as it gives me peace of mind about where my money is (i.e. not in the hands of a dirty pickpocket). However, I’ve found that it doesn’t help me with my overspending, or with my fashion obsession… so I endeavour to keep a healthy (but not excessive!) amount of cash in my wallet as well. I find that physically seeing the money in the wallet is much more efficient when it comes to saving it.
2. Be smart and use your Smart Phone
Smart Phones are called that for a reason. They hold the tons upon tons of apps that are all designed to save you precious coin. Groupon, TodayTix, Ticket Monster… don’t pay full price, do your research, get the apps. The Internet is full of discounts, just waiting to be found. For instance, one website in Vancouver was selling Cirque du Soleil tickets for $500… another sold them for just $70. A little research, a healthy wallet, and a great night out. What could be better.
3. City Passes – your literal pass to the city.
Here she goes… another rant about how amazing city passes are. New York Passes, London Passes… saving money on entry fees is trendy, so get in on it. And while we are on the subject of saving money, checking out what passes are available for public transport can also be beneficial. Is it cheaper to buy a MetroCard, Oyster Card, or Go Card? Take the bus, taxi, or light rail? Perhaps the Hop On-Hop Off Bus is your ideal way of sightseeing? The rest is up to you… there is always a cheaper way. Search (the internet), and ye shall find.
4. Don’t waste money on tacky souvenirs – save your cash.
On my last trip overseas, I promised myself I wouldn’t buy snowglobes, stupid hats, keyrings, or anything else that collects dust and/or ends up discarded under my bed after my travels are over. I wanted to spend my money on worthwhile items… so I invested in some art pieces, beautiful clothing and most of all, experiences. That’s right – not spending money on the tacky stuff actually allowed me to do more things while overseas, because I actually had the money to spare. Who would have thought… and without the lame eye rolling, experience is absolutely worth its weight in gold.
And FYI, the snow globe is still under my bed.
Because I didn’t buy twenty useless keyrings, I could afford to visit the observation deck of the Seattle Space Needle. #moneywise
5. Exchange rates – how to deal?
Punctuated with a question mark, because of the confusion that usually surrounds them. Basically, just remember that a dollar in Australia does not equal a dollar in the US. Before buying something in your travels, take the time to do the maths and convert the price back to your own currency. It’s a good way to know what you’re paying for, and whether it’s worth the coin! My advice is to avoid the confusion, and download a conversion app for your phone. This is how we avoided paying $13 Australian dollars for a cup of tea in Venice. Be currency wise.
6. Branch out for the best deals.
In addition to my comment about the exorbitantly priced cup of tea in Venice, the best deals for food and drink are usually just off the tourist strips. Try and branch out a little bit, and you’ll usually find a much better deal. We walked outside of St Peter’s Square, and instantly found a cup of tea for a little under $4 AUD. More money for biscuits.
After our tea boycott. We’re not gonna pay!
7. Always have a back up plan.
I once was told that my mental ‘back up plans’ were a negative way of thinking. However, I like to think of myself as more of a realist. This post is about money, and how to deal with it while travelling… so naturally, we must address the possibility that if you go overseas, there is a chance that your money could go AWOL, and that’s not cool. Or fun, safe, or anything else positive. I’ve run out of money, had my prepaid credit card frozen… my sister threw hers away in the snow, never to be seen again. Thankfully, our ‘back up plan’ is a credit card that allows international transactions. However, having an emergency stash of cash, or even a spare credit card (pre-paid or regular) is always a good idea. For those ‘just in case’ moments. I have experienced all these things, just to broadcast the message and save you a little pain later on. I do it all for you.