On social media, you only see the lavish aspects of traveling like a photo of the glistening Eiffel Tower and a video of a girl doing a hair flip on the Amalfi Coast. The not-so-glamorous sides of traveling are often undiscussed, making #travelgoals seem unattainable and new travelers discover a rude awakening on their first trip. We are here to be transparent on the nitty-gritty parts of traveling (like the damage it can do to your bank account), to give you the best knowledge up front when preparing for a trip of a lifetime.
1. Your Phone Plan
While traveling abroad, you may find that your normal phone service isn’t the same as it is at home. You may be paying for a plan that doesn’t include international travel or if it does, the speed of your data may not be as quick. You can contact your phone service provider before your trip to see your service options while you’re abroad or you can get a local SIM card from the country you’re going to. When you call your service provider, ask if you have an international plan and how much it would cost to add service in another country. Some providers can charge you a monthly fee or a daily fee depending on how long your stay is. Getting a local SIM card from the airport or phone stand in a foreign country is very common and can save you a lot of money if you don’t have an international plan. You can pick the amount of data you want from your SIM card and put it in your phone. If you already have international service, check your data’s speed by asking your phone service provider to ensure it’s not too slow for your needs.
2. The Currency Exchange
Depending on where you’re going, the currency exchange can be confusing. It’s barely ever a 1:1 ratio from the US dollar to the foreign currency so when it comes out of your bank, you may be surprised by the amount taken out. If you buy something in Spain for 30 euros, you’ll see that $31.27 was taken out of your account. In Thailand, you can spend 4,000 baht which may seem like a lot because we’re used to U.S. dollars, but it is actually only $114.49. Some places will ask you if you would like to pay in U.S. dollars or the local currency and you may be tempted to choose the dollar because that’s what you’re used to, but the local currency will always give you a better deal. Check if your credit card has foreign transaction fees and ATM reimbursements so you’re not hit with hidden fees later on. Contact your credit card company to see their travel fees if there are any. You can save yourself hundreds of dollars by using a credit card that has no foriegn transaction fees. When you take money out of an ATM, you’re usually charged a fee plus a lower conversion rate so you may be paying more for your cash than you originally planned. Using your local bank to get foreign currency may be your cheapest and most convenient option. You’ll have to call your bank and ask them to order the currency you need so you can have it by the time you leave for your trip. This can save you a lot in ATM fees and conversion rates while you’re abroad!
3. Travel Insurance
If you’re traveling abroad, travel insurance should be on your must-haves and is definitely a cost you should add in your budget. You can purchase travel insurance through an insurance provider or you may be given the option to insure your trip when you book your plane ticket. Popular travel insurance providers are Allianz, World Nomads, and Travelex. Travel insurance can cover lost baggage, delayed or canceled flights, medical expenses, and more. If something happens on your trip, you can easily file a claim online and get the help you need. We definitely suggest investing in travel insurance, especially if you travel frequently.
4. Train tickets
It is a common misconception that when you travel around Europe, specifically, it is cheap to bounce from country to country by train. In reality, train tickets start to add up. For example, a train ticket from Florence, Italy to Milan, Italy (which is about 2 hours round trip) can end up being 50 euros ($52) per passenger. You also need to consider that this may be a one-way train price and whether or not you’ll need a return train. It is also important to note that oftentimes the cheaper ticket price means a much longer train time, and time is money, especially if you’re planning weekend trips or city-hopping around Europe. If you are planning to see multiple cities by train, I recommend getting the Eurail pass. This pass was about $200 for a month of unlimited train rides, allowing you access to go on small inner city trains and big regional trains, which essentially opens up your ability to explore more!
One aspect hidden on social media is the hauling of bags from city to city. It is not as simple as just hopping on a train and arriving at your destination. Oftentimes, the train stations or airports are outside of the city center where you are staying and you will have to walk with your luggage a long way. That, or the airport is an hour away and you have no choice but to get in the car. There is no Uber or Lyft in Europe. You will have to call a taxi for a ride. In my experience, taxi drivers pay by the minute, not by the mile — and they take their time. They know their way around town much better than we do and have no problem taking the long way for a few extra dollars. Be aware of how much you are taking taxis and the added price of up to 100 euros+ sometimes! It all adds up quick.
Nobody wants financial burdens lingering over their head while traveling. Prepping for these additional costs will give you financial freedom on your trip, giving you the luxury of a stress-free experience and some extra spending money in your pocket. With these tools ahead of time, you are bound for a memorable trip. Happy traveling!