Planning your finances might not be the most appealing aspect of trip-planning, but it will help you work out how far you can travel, how long you can go for, and what types of experiences you can pack into your time away.
First you need to work out the big expenses such as travel kit, airline tickets, visas and other documents – then with the remaining amount you can work out a realistic daily budget – incorporating food, accommodation, travel, and other expenses such as entry fees for tourist attractions. You will need to get a rough idea of the cost of living at each of your destinations, but even with meticulous planning there are always going to be situations that add extra expense. You might hear about a special sightseeing excursion you’re desperate to go on, or find yourself in a destination at festival time when accommodation is in high demand and prices are pushed up.
It’s still worth working out a budget and trying to stick to it, but try to over-estimate rather than under-estimate the amount you need, or you may find you’re missing out on some great adventures.
If you’re getting foreign currency before you travel, take advantage of online comparison sites to find the best exchange deals – such as MoneySavingExpert.com’s Holiday Money search for the best rates.
The one thing that is not worth scrimping on is travel insurance. Don’t consider travelling without it, and don’t automatically choose the cheapest policy – it could prove extremely expensive in the long run if you’re not adequately covered for something that happens during your trip. A medical emergency abroad can be extremely expensive. If you need to be returned to the UK, for example, it could cost you thousands of pounds, unless you are adequately insured. For an air ambulance from the Canary Islands, for example, it could cost you between £12-16,000. Make sure your travel policy covers the entire time you’re away, and covers you for:
- Medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness abroad
- 24 hour emergency service and assistance
- Personal liability cover – in case you’re sued for causing injury or damaging property
- Lost and stolen possessions
- Cancellation and curtailment of your trip
- Any extra cover you may require depending on your trip type, e.g. for activities that are usually excluded from standard policies (such as skiing, many watersports, and so on).
You can find cheaper flights by using flight comparison websites, looking out for airline flight sales and promotions, and booking seats as early as possible – and if you’re only travelling short-haul there will usually be budget airlines to choose from. My personal favourite is www.kayak.co.uk.
If you’re also able to be as flexible as possible about your travel dates and flight times you will have a greater choice of fares, while travelling at unsociable hours (such as starting your flight in the middle of the night) can also bring the price down.
By booking online through websites such as HostelBookers.com, and taking advantage of their regular ‘cheap bed’ sales, you can often secure the cheapest deals on budget accommodation. It’s tempting to travel without a tight schedule and just turn up at destinations and find accommodation on the spot. This is fine if your budget is flexible and you’re travelling outside of peak season. In many destinations it’s also perfectly acceptable to haggle a bit over room prices if you arrive on-the-spot, but do your research before you arrive to find out what is and isn’t acceptable. It can, however, end up costing you a lot more if you don’t pre-book your accommodation: you can end up with a more limited choice of places to stay – and often the budget options will be fully booked.
If you’re a full-time student, you can also carry an ISIC card – the only internationally-recognised student ID – in order to gain a whole host of special discounts. You won’t have to pay the booking fee if you arrange accommodation on HostelWorld.com, for example, and you may enjoy reduced entry fees at many attractions, local restaurants, cinemas and shops.