Travel is often fun, but almost always expensive. That’s especially true if your trip is for an extended amount of time. The good news is you may be surprised how far your holiday money can go by avoiding certain things travelers often buy. Here are 14 of the best examples:
Food You Can Get at Home
When you’re traveling, it’s quite normal to crave the familiar foods you’re used to back home. While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a food you love, the odds are you’re going to end up very disappointed. The dish will not taste anywhere as good as what you’re used to and will probably be more expensive than the local specialties.
Souvenir T-shirts at just about every major tourist site in every country are typically gaudy and cheap looking. They look especially silly when you wear them back home. Buy a shot glass instead — that would at least be useful.
Knockoff merchandise is plentiful, but do you really need a fake bag or counterfeit coat? The price is appealing, but the quality of these items is always underwhelming. Trust me: I’ve been down this road before.
Food Near Tourist Sites
The closer you are to major tourist sites, the more expensive the food is going to be. The price has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with the high rent of being in such a prime location. Go a little out of the way and find places that’ll taste just as good for a much better price. Usually, this involves only walking a couple blocks.
Unless it’s an emergency or you’re in a poorly-developed country, consider skipping the taxi and use public transportation.
Not all ATMs are created equal. Some of them are shockingly expensive to foreign cards with high fees and poor exchange rates. Check out a few different ATMs to see which ones offer the best deals.
Souvenirs From Children
In some countries, impoverished yet adorable children will try to sell you souvenirs. Instinct says you should do something to help these poor kids, but buying from them doesn’t help. These kids are forced to work by adults who make good money off their effort — so buying from them ensures that they’ll continue selling items instead of going to school. It’s a vicious cycle where helping does more harm than good.
Free Wi-Fi for customers might seem like an inalienable right, but that’s not always the case. In some countries, even coffee shops charge hefty fees to customers for the privilege of using their Wi-Fi — Starbucks in Thailand is especially egregious. Hostels in some of the most popular cities — New York City, Venice, etc. — sometimes charge guests an additional fee for Wi-Fi. Avoid this nonsense and download some apps that will point you towards free Wi-Fi spots.
Cities both big and small offer a variety of different tours, many of which are costly. To get a feel for a city while on a budget, do a web search for free walking tours. These tours are often excellent and work on a tip-based system, so you’ll spend less than you would on a more formal tour. I’ve been on many of these and have never been disappointed.
Every country has specialized scams. Some rely on smooth-talking and forced friendliness; but others are more aggressive. Someone will hand you something you don’t really want — often some sort of trinket — and then demand money. This is unpleasant and unfortunate, so keep your guard up when traveling.
Pub crawls are advertised at almost any hostel or guesthouse you go to. They can be a fun time, as you’re meeting up with liked-minded travelers at bars. However, you’d be better off taking a DIY approach with people you meet instead of paying a premium to go with an organized group.
Guidebooks have their use when it comes to trip planning, but carrying them around is a hassle. Lots of tourists seem to spend more time in their books than they do enjoying the surroundings. Learn what you can online and then ditch the book.
Your phone company would love nothing more than to hit you with heavy international fees. Instead, use programs like Skype while on Wi-Fi to communicate with people back home.
Anything Too Far in Advance
One of the joys of travel is going with the flow. To do that, you need to be somewhat open-ended with your plans. Book your first hotel and flight well in advance but, beyond that, keep a rough plan and see how things shape up. Of course, during peak season in popular places, you might be required to book in advance — so do some research to gauge if early reservations are needed. You might be surprised how easy it is to show up to a place and easily find somewhere to stay.
Photo Credit: Michael Cory