With summer just around the corner, many people are in the midst of booking their summer travel plans. If your plans will take you overseas this summer, consider these tips to reduce the financial cost of the trip.

  1. Plan ahead. The best way to save money while traveling is to plan your trip well in advance and to travel outside of peak season. As far out as you can, research the places you’ll visit, the costs of lodging, transportation, food, and activities. After documenting the cost of everything you can anticipate, add an extra 20% to the total for all of the items you can’t anticipate or might have forgotten (e.g. tips, souvenirs, food, etc.). Avoiding peak season can save you a bundle. If you don’t have the flexibility to travel completely off-season, even shifting travel dates to the beginning or end of peak season can save you money. While booking our airfare to Italy this summer, I discovered that each day later I booked travel after mid-June, the airfares went up dramatically.
  2. Use credit/debit cards wisely. Get a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees before booking flights and hotels. These fees can apply to transactions with foreign-based companies, whether you are outside the US or not. You’ll generally get the best exchange rate by using your debit card to withdraw cash once in country, rather than exchanging cash into local currency at the airport or before you go. However, you might want to convert a small amount of cash into local currency prior to travel to cover initial costs that can’t be paid by credit card until you get settled. Finally, when offered the option by a local merchant to have the cost converted to dollars at time of purchase (known as dynamic currency conversion), just say no. You’ll get a better exchange rate if you let your credit card company do the conversion. Notify your issuer before you leave the country to avoid having your card rejected when you need it most.
  3. Splurge selectively. Decide in advance what aspects of the trip are most important to you and what you are willing to spend extra money on. Then, try to save money on other parts of the trip that aren’t as significant to you. For example, you might consider staying in a nice hotel in one city, then offset that by staying in less expensive lodging in another town and eating several meals in. Or, maybe splurge on a guided tour for one sight and do free locals’ tours or a self-guided tour of the other sights.

International travel can quickly get very expensive. If you want to have the best trip possible without blowing your budget, consider using a few of the tips recommended above.