MANILA, Philippines - Traveling has never been more accessible and affordable than now. With budget airlines opening routes to a host of new destinations and with new promotions being launched almost weekly, traveling to exotic destinations has become an activity for families or friends to look forward to.
There are, however, several pitfalls that you can unwittingly fall for that can easily bring up your travel costs. This is why careful planning is important every step of the way.
Here are some tips to ensure that you do not bust your budget next time you go on vacation:
Plan in advance.
Advance booking allows you to get the lowest prices for flights and hotels. Typically, rates are at their lowest during off peak seasons. Check with your airline for these dates, which are usually not clustered around holidays. Consider traveling on weekdays, since rates are often higher during weekends. Compare rates and don’t be afraid to haggle if needed.
Allow for flexibility.
While it is tempting to snap up the low-priced but non-reimbursable tickets you see, be very realistic about your schedules. Are you 100% sure that you can take a week off during your company’s budget season? What if your kids’ semestral break is suddenly moved? So many low priced tickets end up unused because they were bought in haste. If you are not sure about your schedules, consider looking at tickets with rebooking options. They may cost more at the outset, but they might be more appropriate for your needs.
Study your transportation options.
Red-eye flights may give you considerable savings, but these may be negated when you are forced to pay for expensive transfers at odd hours and have to book an extra night in a hotel. Similarly, a low priced hotel may be located in such a remote place that you would have to pay so much to get there. Check all these details before finalizing your ticket and hotel purchase. There are many tips from real travelers online who can tell you about transfers and important details that invariably cost money. Look at bus, train and shuttle schedules to determine your best options.
Pay attention to foreign exchange rates and fees.
It’s tempting to walk into a money exchange shop in the middle of the flea market, but these could cost you a lot. Instead, know your options in advance so that you can have your money exchanged into the local currency at competitive rates. Sometimes, it turns out cheaper to use your international credit card to make local purchases because you are charged the exact amount with no worries about counting the change.
Go easy on the internet and text messaging.
Before you post those photos on your favorite networking site, check out your data roaming usage and rates. So many travelers get the shock of their lives when they are charged thousands of dollars in roaming fees by their service providers. Remember that roaming charges apply even when you are merely answering overseas calls, or even when you are making local calls. Text messaging rates may cost a fortune in your destination, so be mindful.
Get local knowledge.
It’s always good to consult locals on just about everything you need. They sometimes offer valuable information than tourist guides and online sites. They can tell you the best routes to take, restaurants to try, and places where you can get great shopping finds. If you can, have a local accompany you when you go to the market or when shopping. Hotel clerks, doormen, and even cab drivers also offer a wealth of information that tourists should find useful.
Don’t ignore freebies.
There are many freebies that you should not ignore – free shows, free transfers, free entrance to tourist attractions, even cookies and drinks at some destinations. All these could add up to considerable savings. Use mileage points when you can for tickets or to get upgrades.
Check out promotions and packages.
You can get amazing discounts when you buy packaged tours. Don’t buy these in haste from online hawkers without looking at the fine print and without verifying the information though. It is best to go with reputable groups. Check out the packages offered by credit card companies – you might even be able to pay for your vacation through monthly installments!
In the end, by being an informed tourist, you can save both money and time. Information is a most valuable tool. Make sure you have pertinent information you need — from fees you will be paying, to the exchange rates, to local weather.
Mistakes due to ignorance — like packing summer outfits when it’s winter in your destination, or buying an outrageously priced shirt because you don’t know the exchange rate — can be costly, especially when you’re far from home and in the middle of a tourist trap.
Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between ABS-CBNnews.com and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.
Visit www.citibank.com.ph for more information. (ABS-CBNnews.com)