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7 holiday money-wasters (and how to avoid them)

Friday, 26 June 2015

Posted by Mary Ward

If you’re heading off on holiday, you’ve probably accepted that a certain level of spending will be involved. But, that doesn’t mean you need to open your wallet at every opportunity.

If you are sick of your money taking a (permanent) holiday every time you do, here’s a warning about the places travellers always find themselves being sucked dry (and how you can avoid them).

1. Eating at the hotel

What’s the point in travelling to Thailand just to eat every meal at the hotel’s Italian restaurant? Getting out of the hotel is a great way to experience local culture. Ditch the all you can eat international buffet and the high price tag that comes with it and ask the hotel concierge for a local restaurant recommendation or read reviews on Trip Advisor for restaurants in the hotel vicinity.

An alternative is to stay in accommodation with a kitchenette and commit to stocking up the mini bar yourselves and preparing at least one meal a day (we’d recommend breakfast - then the money you save can go towards a nice bottle of wine at lunch and dinner).

2. Paying high currency conversion fees 

Did you know that most banks charge about 2% - 3% of the total value of the transaction for overseas card payments? This means that on a $5,000 holiday, you could end up paying around $150 in fees! You can avoid these extra charges by packing a travel friendly credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees on purchases.

Also, never exchange money at an airport foreign exchange booth. Even if they claim not to have any fees or commissions, an extortionate charge has most likely been built into the exchange rate they quote you.  One of the best options is to get a prepaid travel card with no ATM withdrawal fees. But, even if you find yourself in a foreign place with no cash, using your regular bank card at a local ATM is likely to be cheaper than going to an airport bureau de change.

3. Doing a group tour to tourist hotspots

Sometimes going on a group tour is a really useful thing to do. Particularly if you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language and you don’t think anyone else will speak yours, where you have safety concerns, or if you’re travelling by yourself and want to make a travel buddy.

But, if you’re travelling to a mainstream tourist site (Buckingham Palace for example), with a plethora of accompanying guidebooks, free apps, and a public transport system you can wrap your head around with a couple of Google searches, there’s no need to spend big on group tours when you’ll have a much more exciting (and less expensive) time exploring the sites by yourself.

4. Seeing the sights from a taxi window

Sure, taxi drivers are some of the most interesting characters but taxi fares can add up and if you are not familiar with a city you could find yourself being taken for a very expensive drive around the block. If you’re travelling to a big city, chances are it has a big public transport system to match. Live like a local and catch buses or trains (or monorails, or trams) - many major cities have tourist transport passes (e.g. Berlin Welcome Card, New York MetroCard, Hong Kong MTR Tourist Day Pass) that will get you to popular attractions and hotels for a fraction of the cost of taxis.

5. Paying to reduce car insurance excess

Paying $20 a day to lower the excess on a rental car doesn’t seem like a lot but, over the course of a two week vacation it’s $280 you could use to fund theme park tickets or a romantic dinner for two. And, do you want to know the worst part? If you have travel insurance, you've probably already paid for it.

Rental car excess coverage is often offered as standard on travel insurance (including travel insurance provided through a credit card), so read the PDS or your card policy before you are pressured into paying excess payments at the car rental kiosk.

6. Climbing everything over five storeys high

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the London Eye, Sydney’s Centrepoint Tower: tourists like to be at the top of tall things. But often the charges associated with ascending to a bird’s eye view of a city are more eyewatering than the headspin you experience when you’re up there.

Fight the need to climb everything in sight and explore a city from the ground. The things you see and the people you meet will be far more interesting than yet another selfie of you in front of a distant urban landscape indistinguishable from the last.

7. Coming home with a souvenir suitcase

Buying a few keepsakes from your travels (and a few presents to give to friends and family back home) is a lovely idea, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

Pace yourself (one trinket per city, perhaps?) and always ask: Will I ever wear these $25 pair of Minnie Mouse ears after I step outside the gates of Disneyland? If the answer is no, then keep your wallet zipped shut.

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