Winging your way across the ocean, whimsical browsing in quaint shops and dining on exotic fare in an outdoor Paris cafe are the things that make up dream vacations.
But when you’re wondering whether the money changer has taken you for a ride or you’ve busted your budget after only two days, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare. Here’s how to get the most for your money and be a savvy traveler while vacationing overseas:
Use credit cards
Traveling abroad is one of the times when credit card use is highly recommended. Swiping your plastic will greatly simplify your money matters while you’re on vacation. You won’t be left wondering if you’ve been given a good exchange rate for your dollars or if the souvenir you’re fingering is outrageously overpriced when you’re paying with your own currency. Credit cards are also harder to pickpocket than wads of cash. Even if they are swiped, one quick phone call can put a stop to the fallout, whereas stolen cash is gone forever.
Before you board your flight, though, you’ll want to ensure your card is ready for swiping while abroad. First, determine whether your card has a foreign transaction fee. If it does, you might want to apply for a new one without a fee. Also, make sure your credit card company knows about your travels and won’t flag your purchases as fraud activity. Lastly, if you do not yet have a chip-enabled card, be sure to carry your passport with you, as many European countries don’t accept magnetic-strip credit cards without proper identification.
Know the local currency exchange rate
While primarily using credit cards will minimize the hassle of exchanging currency, it won’t eliminate it. There will be the occasional vendor who will only accept cash, making that exchange necessary.
Make sure you know what the current exchange rate is before you set foot on foreign soil. You can easily access this information by downloading an exchange app that tells you how your dollar stacks up against the world’s currencies. XE Currency and My Currency Converter are two great options.
Also, when given a receipt or a bill, ask for the price in the local currency. Foreign merchants know you can’t make heads or tails of the exchange rate, and that by quoting a price in American dollars you’ll think you’re getting a great deal. In truth, though, they could be taking advantage of your naivety by hiking up the price just for you. When you ask for the price in local currency, you can determine the equivalent in American dollars on your own, and whether you are indeed getting a good deal or not.
Dining on a budget
You haven’t fully experienced a city without trying the local eats, but that doesn’t mean you need to blow your budget on pricey restaurants. Instead, dine out in a high-end restaurant during one evening of your stay, and get creative for the rest of your vacation. You can pick up some supplies at a local grocery, delighting in the foreign packaging and strange food items displayed on the shelves. Enjoy a light lunch at a street cafe for half the price of a dimly-lit restaurant. Or, make the rounds of the sidewalk vendors for a meal that will satisfy your craving for exotic cuisine while still being easy on the wallet.
Screen your car rental
Before you book that car, review your itinerary to be sure it’s absolutely necessary. If a set of wheels is a must, search through discount booking sites like Priceline.com and Kayak.com to help you snag the best possible deal. Next, check whether your auto insurance provider will cover accidents while overseas or if you need to purchase insurance. Also, be sure to scan the traveler reviews of any rental companies you’re considering to see if they have inflated their rental rates in the past. Lastly, review local traffic laws to ensure that you drive safely and that you don’t drive on the wrong side of the road!
Use cheap transportation
If you feel like you can get away without booking a car, you’ll save even more by using the cheapest transportation available. Don’t call a cab! Get the real feel of the city by walking to your destination. Hop on a bus or board a train to rub shoulders with the locals and imbibe their culture and mentality. Be sure to check for any traveler’s discounts before purchasing tickets, as many hot spots for tourists offer great deals for vacationers.
Steer clear of the ‘only here’ mindset
When you’ve finally made that long-awaited trip abroad, you want to do, well, just about everything. After all, when will you get another chance like this? You don’t want to go home regretting missed opportunities. But make sure you don’t overdo it and wind up broke! It’s best to create a detailed itinerary and a reasonable budget before setting out on your trip. Include all the things you want to do, and narrow it down as much as possible to just the attractions that are truly unique to your destination. This way, you’ll get your dream vacation without breaking your budget.
Having trouble scraping together the funds for your dream getaway? Call, click or stop by Resource One Credit Union today to ask about opening a summer savings account or taking out a vacation loan. We’re here to help make that dream a reality!