elstad

Cash Is King When Traveling… (And Other Travel Money Tips!)

A lot can go wrong when you travel. Banks will strike just when you want to get your travel money out. ATM’s will fail. Your money will be stolen, or lost. You will take sick or take ill in your destination. All these things have one thing in common, they will keep you from your much needed money, or they will cost money.

It’s said cash is king in business. It’s the lifeblood that keeps the business machine chugging along. And needless to say, its also the oil that greases your travel experiences. Run out of it when traveling and you are in deep sh*t. So then, how do you handle your travel money? What is the best way to carry it, access it and use it? We’ve got some tried and tested tips for you. Read along and share yours too.

The Travel Money Tips

1) Always Carry Cash With You

You will never go wrong with cash. The best is to carry one of the major currencies. Especially the dollar. Most people have a rough idea of the dollar’s value at any given time. You can easily use dollars to pay for most things across countries. It is also easy to find exchange bureaus for the dollar compared to some other currencies.

Also in case of emergencies or failure by banks and ATM’s, you are well covered.

2) Separate Your Travel Money

Don’t put all your travel money in one pocket or bag. Separate it. Carry small amounts in each pocket. Also separate your credit and debit cards. This creates multiple backups in case you lose a bag, or you are pick-pocketed or other alternatives fail. Keep some smaller bills in an easy to reach place for sudden expenses. It’s better to keep the bulk of your money on body storage, such as bra pouches, long johnny boxers. This is especially handy in risky or shared spaces such as hostels.

3) Beware of Exchange Rates

Converting currency costs money. Sometimes you can lose as much as 8% of your money during exchanges. Keep exchanges to a minimum. Calculate the cash you might need locally and exchange that amount at once. Here are some fast rules of thumb regarding currency exchanges:-

  • Stick to reputable exchanges such as regulated bureaus and banks
  • Don’t change your money from street vendors. It’s a recipe for a rip-off
  • Exchange the bulk of your cash at the local travel destination. You get a better late than at your home bank.
  • Avoid exchanging money at the airports. The rates are awful. They know you are desperate.
  • Be aware of the local currency value in relation to your currency. Some vendors will try to rip you off.
  • Get a feel for the local currency. Study the coins and notes. Keep a vague mental value of the currency in relation to your currency. And count your money before you leave the counter.

4) Credit & Debit Cards

Most times, credit and debit cards are a reliable way of carrying and spending travel money. They are easy and convenient to carry. They can be safely used in most countries. However, most developing countries aren’t yet reliably hooked to the global card system. If traveling to those countries, cash will serve you right. For debit and credit cards, keep the following in mind:-

  • Store your cards safely
  • Inform your bank before you travel such that your card isn’t blocked for fraud when you use it abroad.
  • Study the foreign use fees charged by banks on your card. If the charges are too high, seek other alternatives.
  • Carry multiple cards in case others fail to work for any reason
  • Don’t let your cards out of sight, ever. Credit card fraud schemes have started when a cashier spent a lot longer time with your card.
  • Store emergency help line numbers for your cards handy in cases of theft or loss.
  • Put the larger purchases on your debit/credit card. This include airfare, hotel reservations, car rentals etc

5) The Local Currency Advantage

Use the local currency for your transactions. Most vendors will rip you off and add a huge markup price if you produce foreign currency. Their supposed exchange rates for their products is also awful. Using local currency, you can compare your purchases to that of the locals or even ask for their help with prices and understanding the currency. Regular, ordinary folks tend to be really helpful and genuine.

# The Bonus Tips

  • Local coins are worthless once you leave a country. Spend them on small purchases, change them for bills or give them away.
  • Exchange all your money back to dollars when you leave. See Tip #1
  • The traveler’s check is fast becoming obsolete in favor of ATM’s. Leave yours at home.
  • If all else fails. Have someone back home wire you the money through Western Union etc.

Conclusion

Carrying travel money abroad can be a hassle. There is always the risk losing the cash. As pointed out though, there are various safe ways to carry and spend your money. Research the various alternatives and chose the best for the destination you are traveling to. Money may be the oil that greases your travel adventures, but you shouldn’t have to worry about it. Instead, your focus should be on enjoying yourself.

How do you keep your money safe while traveling? Let’s us know in the comments below.

Read More

The Art of Landing Cheap Airline Tickets

The airline business is brutal. Airlines have to deal with seemingly ever rising fuel prices, rise in material costs, shifts in Geo-politics and increased personnel costs. Add to that the fierce competition among airlines and you can see why airfares seem as volatile as the stock markets.

Why is that relevant you ask? Because the costs get passed onto your the traveler. An airline has to consider all those factors into the price of your ticket.

Let’s face it, airfare forms the lion’s share of all your travel related expenses. The good news is, you can still get cheap airline tickets even when the airline cards are stacked against you. It will just take you some time and a bit of flexibility. It’s as simple as that. So let’s explore some of the ways you can land some cheap airline tickets.

Sign Up For An Airline Miles Credit Card

Frequent flier miles program allow you to accumulate points for each mile you fly. Additionally, you can earn miles for purchases charged to the card or earn points from partner programs. You can then use your miles to get upgrades on a flight or a cheap airline ticket to your destination depending on availability. You can even redeem your points for free hotel stays and meals.

How do you accumulate miles faster?

  • Shop at your program’s member stores. Most airline miles programs have partnerships with major retailers to allow you score miles for each purchase.
  • Charge everything to the airline miles card. Whether groceries or mortgage payments, simply charge it to the card. These are expenses you would have incurred anyway, you might as well earn some points while you are it.
  • Sign up for airline mailing lists and watch for deals, offers and bonuses. Sometimes airline offer super cheap deals on flights or easy ways to earn miles that you can take advantage off. Sign up to receive the alerts.

Fly Budget Carriers and Secondary Airports

Airports charge airlines landing fees among other charges. The bigger and busier the airport, the more they charge. Smaller airports on the other hand charge lower landing fees and the savings are passed on to you, the consumer. You can get a cheap airline flight by flying a budget carrier to a cheaper secondary airport.

Budget carriers are “no frills” airlines. Don’t expect the normal perks offered by the major airlines. To make up for that they charge lower fares. You get to travel more for less, albeit not so much comfortably πŸ™‚

Additionally, ensure the secondary airport isn’t too far out from your ultimate destination. In some instances, the savings on airfare might be swallowed up by cab fares.

Be Flexible On Routes

You can land cheap airline flights by flying indirectly to your route.

How does that work? You take a flight to another city or hub near your destination and from there either take a train or opt for a budget local carrier for the remainder of your journey. International long distance flights are expensive. Domestic flights tend to be cheaper. So you break down your journey and enjoy the local travel benefits.

There are drawbacks to this method. It takes more time to get to your destination. It also takes time to put together you cheap airline flight itinerary. You have to research and compare various flights and ensure you are getting the best deal for the slight inconveniences.

Be Versatile On Travel Dates

Data collected over time by airline data outfits point to some cheap days to fly. For example, airfare tends to be more expensive in August when more Europeans travel and when North Americans wrap up their summer vacations. You can get a cheap airline flight immediately after a major holiday or smack in the middle of the week. Hello Wednesday πŸ™‚

Did you know that you can land a cheap airline ticket if you travel early in the morning or deep into the night? It turns out that people love convenience and those awkwardly timed flights attract less takers making them prime for you, the budget traveler.

Conclusion

Getting onto a cheap airline ticket is an art. It requires flexibility on when, where and how you are willing to travel. Research and planning are essential in getting the best deals and stringing a smart itinerary. It calls for patience and comfort sacrifices at times. But it is possible. At the end of the day, you end up being the guy or gal who paid the lowest for that ticket. But more importantly, you get to travel more for less.

Here are some more ideas on how you can reduce your travel related expenses:-

How To Rock Travel On A Really Tight Budget

5 Ways To Save Money On Vacation

10 Tips to Save Money While Traveling

Be smart, fly cheap!

Read More

How to Achieve Your Travel Goals in 5 Easy Steps

If you are anything like me, you have a secret list somewhere of places you’d want to visit before…well, places you’d want to visit. But it isn’t always easy to make your travel goals a reality, is it? There always seems to be competing demands for your time and money. Be it work or other life commitments.

And so each year you make a resolution to travel more and visit places X, Y, Z. The years roll around and you realize you haven’t traveled a bit. And so the travel resolution gets two “X” marks on the next years’ resolutions. This year, you say, am gonna travel more! Oh the cycles of life…it just keeps ebbing away.

Let’s break that cycle today. Me and you. You made a resolution or a decision to travel more this year (I know I did), let’s make that dream a reality. I’ll even volunteer to hold you accountable to your travel goals πŸ™‚

Step #1: Shift Your Travel Thought Patterns

Believe it or not, the biggest barrier to traveling more isn’t money or time, it’s your mind! It’s your thought patterns. Come to think of it, isn’t it also the biggest barrier to people achieving their dreams in any field? Yes, the chips maybe stacked against you, they probably are, but somehow where there is a will, a way emerges.

Imagine yourself traveling more. Or at your favorite destination, soaking in the sun, listening to the cool breeze of the ocean. Or standing at the top of that mountain you have sworn (for ages) to climb. It feels good, doesn’t it? You have to believe you can do it. (Oh yes, today I sound like a motivational speaker…believe me, its for yours and my own good.) We’ve got to conquer our fear of travel impossibilities.

Step #2: Start Small

You are not just going to hop on a plane straight to Alaska, nope. You’ve got to “muscle up” for it. Start small and build up confidence and the planning skills to tackle your bigger, dream destinations.

Start in the local neighborhoods. Attractions within walking and driving distance. Take the time over weekends and holidays to immerse yourself in a place you have wanted to visit but just didn’t have the know-how. Explore more. As you do, you not only gain confidence, but you get to understand yourself; how you travel, the kinds of environment you like and what your typical travel expenses look like.

Step #3: Identify You Dream Destinations

By now you are more confident in your capacity to travel and have fun. Sit down and make a list of countries, destinations and attractions you’d want to visit. Get creative and bold. Now is the time to bring out those travel destinations that have been forever languishing on your Bucket List. Note them down, in order of priority if possible. You can as well arrange them on how easy it is to get to them.

Step #4: Save, Save, Save

This is the fun part! Before you throw up your hands in defeat, hear me out. You have come this far.Β  A little bit of money is the only thing standing between you and all that fun at your Dream Destination #1! You know your typical travel expenses. You have researched your destination and are clued in on the kinds of expenses you might incur. Add that up and factor it in your monthly budget.

Go ahead and create a time-line to help you save faster. For example, if you plan on a major trip in December, you have at least four months, from now, to stow away some travel money. If you don’t have the discipline to sit on that money, have it deducted from your paycheck and deposited into a different “special” account.

Step #5: Partner Up & Conquer the World.

Popular wisdom holds that you should surround yourself with people on the same mission as you. Here is your chance to do so. Find people who are trying to travel more. Those on the same savings journey as you are on. People whom you can hold each other accountable for your dreams and goals. It certainly makes achieving your travel goals easier.

Conclusion

Travel is right up there with reading in experiences that transform your life. (Travel more!) Reading immerses you in other people’s thoughts and wisdom over time, traveling takes you right onto the forefront where you get your hands dirty and become wiser. You shouldn’t let the lack of money or time deter you from achieving your travel goals. Conquer your fears today, take baby steps and then when ready, spread your wings and fly.

All the best fellow travelers!

Read More

5 Must Have Apps For The Budget Traveler

Chances are, you have a smart phone! In fact you are probably reading this post on a smart device (or not :)). Smart devices have changed the way we consume information and made life a whole lot easier! Remember when you had to carry a suitcase full of books on you vacation? Gone. Nowadays you probably just pack your kindle, tablet, or smart phone, and with it more books than you can finish reading your entire holiday.

Each day apps keep coming up that simplify a different area of your life. From tackling your personal finances to finding your next meal. The apps – and your smart device – have got you covered. In that spirit then, let’s get you traveling smarter! The following five apps will transform the way you travel, for the better.

#1. Kayak

Kayak is a popular app that let’s you search and compare different flights. Not just that, you can search and compare hotels and other amenities as well. With Kayak you can sort the flights from the cheapest to the most expensive. Kayak also let’s you compare flights given their departure and arrival times. It has a simple, easy to navigate user interface. Its only downside is that you usually have to navigate outside the app to make any sort of bookings.

View and download Kayak here.

#2. TripIt

TripIt is a travel/trip planner in a class of its own! It allows you to organize all your travel details in one place. You know, all those disparate details and information you need for your trips. From flight departure times to bookings with rental car agencies and hotels, TripIt will organize it all for you. Easily plan your master itinerary with TripIt and view all details on a nice dashboard with the scheduled events and activities. You never miss a beat on your trip.

View and download TripIt here.

#3. AirBnB

Airbnb helps you find accommodation wherever you are traveling! From hotels to private residences you can enjoy on a budget, Airbnb has it all. You can search, compare and view pictures of the potential destination residences as well as book and pay for a staying place using Airbnb’s secure platform. With the app you can easily communicate with your potential hosts and ask questions about the residence. The app lets you view your itinerary and get directions to your host’s residence all on the go!

View and download AirBnb here.

#4. Skype

Skype requires no introduction! It let’s you easily communicate with friends, family and business partners all over the globe. It saves you the hassle of purchasing local sim cards and subscriptions by allowing you to make calls and text wherever you can get an internet connection. With Skype you can enjoy video and audio calls as well as file and photo sharing. Your family and friends are a Skype call away wherever your travels take you!

View and download Skype here.

#5. Expensify

Expensify is an expense tracker. With this app you can easily keep track of your expenses while traveling. Take pictures of your receipts and other expenses and expensify will do the rest. It is especially suited for frequent business travelers keeping tabs on business expenses. At the end of your trip, a free expense report is created which you can use to seek reimbursements.

View and download Expensify here.

Conclusion

Apps are a life and budget saver! With a few free travel apps you can transform the way you travel, from finding affordable flights and accommodations to keeping in touch with family and friends wherever you are. Get yourself some travel apps today. Your next trip will be a whole lot easier and pocket friendly!

Which apps do you frequently use when you travel?

Read More

The 5 Joys Of Solo Travel

There is joy in solo travel. There is an unspoken pleasure in finding yourself again amidst a new culture. It teaches you something. You get back to your roots. To your essence. You don’t have your homely friends and family to rationalize it. You live it. You prepare for it, and you live each moment of it. Traveling with others certainly has its benefits. Solidifying family and friendship bonds for one, but there is also a case to be made for solo travel from time to time. Why you ask? I’ll give you 5 reasons why.

 

1) Painless Logistics

It’s just you on this journey. You only have to take what you require to survive and have fun on your journey. You can pack a tonne. You can also just pick up the essentials and go. You decide the time, place and nature of your travel. It’s pretty flexible. Whereas while traveling with others you have to keep their logistics and itineraries in mind and in your plans.

2) Flexible Itinerary

Ever wanted to take a detour to a place but couldn’t? Because you had it all planned out with family or your partner? Well, with solo travel you can take those plans and ignore them! Yes you can. You have the freedom to go wherever you want and follow what catches your imagination and fancy. Am not denying that it’s good to plan ahead of your trip, all am saying is that you can ignore those plans and still rock your travel time.

solo-travel-quote

3) Bucket List Item Crossed!

Take out your bucket list now and have a hard look at it. (If you don’t have one, it’s high time you made one πŸ™‚ ) What do you see? A lot of places you want to travel to, right? What has been stopping you so far? Well, you will say you can’t go and leave your family behind, or your partner or your cute little dog. However, if you travel alone (from time to time), imagine all the places you’d cross off on that list. And let’s face it. Sometimes it’s difficult explaining to others why you need or have to go to a particular place. There is a good reason why that destination is on your bucket list. So take the time, travel alone.

4) The Maestro Global Citizen

Have you ever noticed how you stick together with your travel buddies on trips? Because they are known quantities. Because as humans we are tribal. Just look at the many pockets of “little nations” we have in America today. We just cocoon together! Solo travel changes all that! You don’t have anyone to cling to. You are forced to meet, greet and get to know folks in your host nation/destination. You make friends, you meet other interesting people on a similar journey. You learn about them, because you realize that your situation would be precarious without them. It’s a great way to meet new people, learn about different cultures and be a truly global citizen!

5) Get Lost

You are thinking, “Why in the world would I want to get lost in a strange place?” I’ll tell you why. So that you can find yourself. By “get lost” I mean two things:-

a) Get physically lost – which come to think of it, who ever gets lost these days with GPS enabled smart phones, right? Try it though, walk a day without your phone. Get lost. Meander into unknown places. I mean, what’s the joy in life if everything is known, right? Plus, while lost you get to ask for directions. Many a friendships have been started that way. (Yeah right, that argument is weak-ish, but try it anyway)

b) Get Spiritually lost. Am using the term “spiritually” very loose here. But I mean you get to pursue your passions while you solo travel. You can be anyone. You can re-invent yourself and your life on the road. It gives you a chance to nurture yourself, to “sharpen the saw” as Steve Covey puts it. To rediscover yourself and what stirs you.

Conclusion

It’s true. Happiness is real when shared. There is nothing stopping you from sharing that happiness with the people you meet on your travels. Solo travel affords you the opportunity to rediscover yourself, re-invent yourself, think deeply about stuff. And more often than not you come back re-energized, full of ideas and ready to tackle the world. So, don’t hesitate. Pack yourself a bag sometime soon and fly away or drive somewhere. You’ll be glad you did it!

Read More
Page 1 of 512345