The following is a guest post written by my dear friend (and semi-frequent traveler), Marta.
Traveling doesn’t have to be stressful and expensive with the proper planning. Here are a five ways you can ensure a great travel experience:
1. Make a ready-to-print pack list. Include everything you might want to take on a trip: jeans, skirt, t-shirts, toiletries, tickets, ID, sunscreen, etc. Once you print it, you can cross off anything you don‘t plan to take on this trip. If you’re traveling for work, just cross off the flip flops and shorts. If you’re going on vacation at the beach, cross off the nylons and the heels.
This tip probably saves me money, but the best part about my pack list is that it gives me peace of mind: I don’t have to wonder if I’ve forgotten to pack something.
2. Plan ahead. (This saves money is so many parts of life, doesn’t it?) While it’s possible to haggle at the reception desk of a hotel to try to get a reduced rate, I feel a heck of a lot better getting a good deal in advance (not to mention knowing where I’m going to sleep on any given night) by using the internet to book beforehand. I use Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, and BookIt.com regularly. However, I’ve also gotten unexpected discounts by calling the hotel in advance and simply asking about one.
The internet is also a great place to find coupons for events and activities if you already know where you want to go and what you want to do on your trip.
2a. Plan ahead…or not, for flights. Airfares can be a crapshoot, but in my experience, booking earlier is better than later. Websites like Farecast.com (now part of Bing) can help you figure out if fares are likely to go up or down.
3. Check your hotel, visitors’ centers, and rest areas for rack cards, promotional materials, etc. I just learned this during a trip this spring. These locations are often loaded with coupons. Plus they can give you ideas for places to go and things to do that you might not have thought of. Got questions? Find a staffer at a visitors’ center. These folks are locals and know their stuff.
4. Stay current on currencies. If you’re going somewhere that you’ll be using a foreign currency, check with your bank in advance about what fees you’ll pay 1) at a foreign ATM and 2) for withdrawing cash in a foreign currency. Some banks will not charge you a fee for either.
Sometimes people choose foreign vacation destinations based on the exchange rate. This is great if you’re willing to be open-minded about where you go, but if you really want to visit a specific place, don’t avoid it just because of the exchange rate. Some experiences are more valuable than saving a few extra bucks!
5. Stay safe. Probably the worst way to lose money while traveling is to have your wallet/purse/valuables stolen. Be vigilant. Try not to look like a tourist. Keep copies of all your credit/debit card in a safe place, both at home and with you as you travel.
Having said all this: Relax! If you’re on vacation, you don’t want to spend the entire trip stressing about money, and if you‘re traveling for work, you have a lot of other stuff to think about. Have fun and enjoy the trip!