Tourist Trap! 5 Travel dollar drains (and how to avoid them)

Tourism is serious business and while on the road it’s pretty hard to go anywhere without someone trying to separate you from your hard-earned. Leave home prepared to give these tourist traps a miss and save your spending money for the stuff (and experiences) you really want.

1) Mini bars and buffet breakfasts

Eating out three times a day while on holiday is a sure-fire way to rack up the bills (and leave you feeling a little ill.) Choose apartment-style accommodation with a kitchenette, and pick up supplies from a market to fuel up on breakfast instead of having to hunt down food first thing. The odd packed lunch or dinner-in will also save you hundreds. There’s no better way to experience a slice of local life than preparing your own spread of specialties – and some of the cash you’ll save can go towards a bottle or two of regional red. If you’re not prepared to give up the feeling of a posh hotel, you can still DIY breakfast and minibar and opt out of disappointing buffets and overpriced peanuts.

2) Foreign exchange booths at the airport

The very worst place you could possibly go to cash up on the local currency when you arrive in a new place is a cash booth or bureau de change at the airport. Even if they claim not to have any fees or commissions you can bet that an extortionate charge is built into the exchange rate they quote you. If you land cashless using your regular bank card at a local ATM (or a prepaid travel card with no ATM withdrawal fees) is a much better option to put that initial bundle of cash in your pocket.

3) Group tours (to straightforward destinations)

If you’re planning a day trip to a fairly well-frequented tourist destination, chances are there’s an alternative way to get there that will be cheaper and offer you a better experience. It may take a few minutes of online research to find the local train or bus routes and timetables but it’s bound to be less expensive and give you more freedom to discover the site at your own pace. The same goes for airport transfers – most cities in the developed world have excellent, user-friendly and affordable public transport to get you to and from the airport, so unless you’re lugging around the kitchen sink in your suitcase, jump on trip advisor to plan your arrival by bus or train and keep your cash for a more interesting purchase.

4) Rental car insurance excess reductions

Paying extra to reduce your rental car insurance is the car hire equivalent of ‘would you like fries with that?’ $20 or so a day to lower your car rental excess really adds up over the course of a several week vacation and if you have travel insurance you’re probably already covered. Many travel insurance providers offer rental car excess coverage alongside other insurance basics like theft and personal injury, so before upsizing at the car rental counter – have a quick read of your travel insurance inclusions.

5) Climb every monument

We’re pretty sure Julie Andrews was singing about climbing every mountain, not every monument. Fight the need to climb everything and see things for free on foot! Free walking tours and self-guided walks are a great way to see and really connect with a city. Also, by the time you’ve paid for a family of four to squeeze up every dome, tower and belfry in the city, you’d be looking at the cost of a very nice meal! For savings worth singing about, seek out ambient, local haunts with panoramic views that won’t cost you the world (and your personal space) to enjoy.