Someday, I’d love to be someone who can plan innumerable spontaneous holidays, never needs to look at the prices before booking the next flight, and can just consume things from hotel mini bars. While I work towards that, the reality today is that when I want to travel, I need to manage my finances, plan out a detailed budget — and stick to it.
If you too stay away from mini bars and are always on the lookout for bargain flight deals, chances are you don’t have unlimited funds for travel either. And as anybody in that situation would know, it’s not a happy feeling when you go somewhere nice and realize with a jolt that you have forgotten to account for some expense that will now blow up your budget. While it is always a good idea to set aside a part of your travel funds for emergencies, here are a few things you can keep in mind to minimize these unexpected expenses as much as possible:
1. Travel to and from the airport
You have a budget set aside for local transportation — and you’re pretty sure you haven’t left anything out. You have carefully researched public transport options. You know exactly how much a seven-day travel pass costs, and how many rides it takes to break even. You may even be feeling pretty confident about getting a great deal on a car-rental service.
But if you’re anything like me, you don’t feel like your holiday has truly begun until your flight takes off, and that means you’re not budgeting for the transport expenses you rack up while you are still in your own city. Think about that expensive cab ride to the airport, and the one you’ll take back home once you land. Don’t forget to figure out how you’ll get to your hotel or Airbnb once you arrive at your destination too. Airport transfers often work out to be much more expensive than the usual local transport — a fact that most of us end up overlooking.
In fact, while you’re at it, take into account all the expenses that you incur at the airport. This includes the coffee and sandwich you pick up at that expensive airport café, the lounge access you charge to your credit card, and any purchases you make at the duty-free stores. I always end up giving myself a free pass on all my airport expenses — and these add up pretty fast.
This is an easy one to miss out if you’re used to having potable water on tap, but in many countries, tap water is not safe to drink. Your hotel might provide a small, complimentary bottle of water, but that’s not enough to last you through the day, especially if you are going somewhere hot. Additionally, public drinking fountains are not common in these countries, so you won’t be able to refill your bottle while you’re out. You’ll end up needing to buy expensive bottled water every time you get thirsty — and this can bump your expenditure beyond your budget.
Always do a quick check on the availability of drinking water, even if you think you don’t need to worry about it. Tap water is not safe to drink even in some pretty luxurious resort destinations, especially if it happens to be on an island. And if you missed out on looking this up earlier, and are now in a situation where you find yourself needing to buy water, go to the nearest supermarket or store. Pick up one of the larger bottles of water that you can find — this usually works out cheaper than buying water at cafes and restaurants.
3. Food expenses specific to the areas you’ll be staying in
While figuring out the food budget for holidays, most of us do a quick search about the food prices in the city we are visiting, and set our budget based on that. However, these prices differ greatly depending on the areas you’ll be staying in or visiting. Having to travel an hour out of the city for reasonably priced food is not feasible — you’ll probably end up spending more on transport costs.
I learned this the hard way on a recent trip to Maldives. An initial search showed that meals were under $10, which I thought was pretty reasonable. Once the hotel was booked, I started looking for some good restaurants in the area — and realized that anything nearby was at least four times more expensive than I had initially estimated. Turns out, some islands in Maldives are considerably more expensive than others. If I wanted to go to one of the other islands, I would have to take a sea-plane that would set me back by $500! Needless to say, I had to find a way to make my peace with the more expensive restaurants near my hotel.
These are some common things many of us forget to factor into our travel budget (I know I have!). Keep these in mind when you are heading out for a vacation — they’ll save you so much tension and last-minute panic.