It’s your worst nightmare, but it’s come true… you’re in a foreign country and you have no way to pay for your next meal. It sounds hilarious, but I am chagrinned to inform you that it actually happened to me, the Payless Traveler! Yes, I can already hear the clicks of the keyboards with the stinging comments I am going to get for even admitting this, but maybe someone can learn from my mistake… and hopefully not be as naïve as I was on this fateful trip.
This story starts as innocently as any… my friend Katie (evil thing she is) asks if I want to go to England with her to study a semester abroad. I immediately, without thinking, say YES! Now let’s stop and ponder this action for one moment: 1.) I was in college 2.) I had a job paying about $7 per hour 3.) The semester abroad costs $2500 4.) Katie and I want to go early to sightsee. Now if THAT isn’t a recipe for disaster I don’t know what is. But, I digress.
My perfect solution was getting a student loan and buying a ticket to London a few weeks before the semester started. Low and behold, three weeks before I was to leave I realize that I didn’t have enough money to pay for the semester. I find myself was stuck with a plane ticket to London, and no money. At this point, I should have cut my losses and run… but I’m not that bright and I couldn’t stand it if Katie had all the fun. How do I solve this monetary problem? I run to Target and apply for a credit card (Yes, I can feel you’re disapproval, and it does get worse).
Needless to say, the credit card does not arrive on time and I find myself in a foreign country with only the money in my pocket. Luckily, Katie is much more prepared than I and she graciously allows me to borrow a few bucks for some rice noodle soups to tide me over until my credit card arrives. It took a few days but I got it and the trip went relatively smoothly until one day I go to pay for something and my card is declined.
Come to find out that the credit card company put a hold on my credit, because they thought someone had stolen my credit card and started using it in England. A few more days of rice noodles later, and I’ve been able to convince the credit card company that I am who I say I am. The trip all-in-all was great, and Katie and I had a blast… but the experience has taught me a serious lesson in financial planning and financial responsibility. I spent over two years paying off the credit card, and I still am paying for the student loan… but hey, who isn’t still paying for their student loans?
<!–[if !supportLists]–>1.) <!–[endif]–>Plan Your Home Finances First: It seems silly, but can be easily overlooked. You may be planning your vacation… but your bills and creditors don’t take vacations. To make your vacation worry free, pay your bills ahead of time or use your banks online services to pay them for you while you are away.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>2.) <!–[endif]–>Set a Budget: This is the easy part… keeping within that budget, however, can be hard. The budget can make or break your vacation… if you don’t have enough, don’t go. If you’ve already bought plane tickets, it may be better to eat the loss than to have to pay off a debt for years to come. Remember to budget for airfare, hotel stay, food, activities, travel, and souvenirs. Leave a little extra for unexpected expenses as well.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>3.) <!–[endif]–>Cash, Credit, or Travelers Checks? Each one has advantages and disadvantages. I would suggest that you take a mixture of all three. If you’re traveling internationally it would be wise to also check the exchange rates, as each form of currency may have differing exchange rates. Remember to call your credit card company and inform them that you will be traveling to minimize any freezes on your accounts.
<!–[if !supportLists]–>4.) <!–[endif]–>Be flexible: You may have made a set budget, but things happen that are beyond your control. Roll with the punches and make the best of he situation. If you find that you have limited money, cut costs. In London Katie and I found this wonderful little restaurant that sold curried rice for cheap. It was great, it was local, and best of all it was cheap!
Well… most of this is common sense, but sometimes even the most seasoned traveler has their moments.