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5 Top Travel Money Tips

Nothing can obliterate a post-holiday glow like discovering the damage you've done on your credit card. But with a few simple strategies, you might come back pleasantly surprised instead of suffering a cash-related comedown.

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Tip #1 - Put your kids on a leash!

Treating kids to snacks and souvenirs might keep them satisfied (and buy you a little more time shopping, museum-going, or oohing and aahing over art in peace), but it all adds up - and that series of forgettable nick-nacks and nibbles could tip you over the edge of your budget. To help rein things in, give young travellers a set allowance each day to blow on whatever novelty keyring or sugar-laden local delicacy they wish. But once that amount is gone, it's gone: no negotiations, and no needless extra-spending on your part.

Tip #2 - Dine in; stay out of debt

Eating out three (or more) times a day while on holiday is a surefire way to rack up the bills. 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. Whip up some sandwiches to take on the road while sightseeing, or enjoy the occasional dinner in. 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.

Tip #3 - Pick a card, but not any card

It's easy to become overwhelmed by the possibilities of overseas indulgence. And if you happen to have a deck of credit cards at your disposal, you'll be tempted to spread your spend - and dip in to more funds than intended while racking up an assortment of fees along the way. It's absolutely essential to check the fees for international cash withdrawals and credit payments on your card. And if you have more than one credit card, compare what they're offering and commit to bringing the best credit card deal. If you want to get really tough (or don't trust your willpower) consider lowering your credit limit too so you don't get swept up in a holiday spending frenzy you know you'll regret.

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Tip #4 - Make yourself at home

So you've well and truly graduated from hostels to hotels, but if paying for the privilege of a minibar and turn-down service isn't high on the agenda, you might consider some of the various new alternatives. Savvy travellers are getting in on house-swapping, which allows you to stay free of charge in somebody else's property - while they stay in yours. It does require a level of trust and flexibility, but reputable websites can put you in touch with seasoned home-swappers ready to change scenes with you. Not quite comfortable with the idea of key-swapping? A global network of homeowners now offers the use of their property (often while they holiday themselves) at rates that might make you check out of hotels for good. These sites can hook you up with a place that offers all the conveniences of home, if you don't mind staying in someone else's.

Tip #5 - Dodge the duty-free dues

You really can't afford not to save on duty-free booze, perfume and exotic sweets. But you can definitely afford to turn down their latest trick: offering payment in your local currency. Naturally, you think you'll save money by paying in Aussie dollars. And, naturally, there's a hefty, hidden conversion fee - typically over 3% - which is usually higher than a good overseas debit card foreign currency rate, and will still incur all the usual overseas fees. Much better to use up the last of your cash - or a travel card deal.

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