Don’t pay in Australian dollars
By all means go wild with the savings you can make on duty-free booze, perfume and exotic sweets. But say no to their latest trick: Offering payment in Australian dollars. Think you’re saving money by paying in your local currency? Think again! There’s a hefty, hidden conversion fee – typically over three per cent – that is higher than a good overseas debit card foreign currency rate, and will still incur all the usual overseas fees. It’s a much better idea to use up the last of your foreign cash or a travel card deal.
Avoid buying travel insurance from an airline or travel agent
A surefire way to pay more than you need to on travel insurance is to buy it through your travel agent or airline. Travel agents and airlines are usually re-packaging and on-selling a product from an insurer and are sure to be earning their commission and adding to the price. Why pay big commissions when it’s faster and more convenient to see what’s on offer in the market and compare quotes online? Doing your own research online takes just a few minutes and the savings mean more cash to splash on your trip.
Travel with the right plastic in your pocket
Before you leave home, it’s absolutely essential to check the fees for international cash withdrawals and credit payments on your card. Sometimes travelling with your regular debit card is the best way to go, but other times, the right prepaid travel card might get you a better deal. Take a few minutes to compare travel credit cards and prepaid travel cards for the best deal on the market and make sure you take off with a card that will take your dollar further. If you do opt for a credit card, consider lowering your credit limit so you don’t get swept up in a holiday spending frenzy you’ll wind up regretting.
There’s a coupon or discount code for just about anything these days so before you proceed to book anything (flights, hotels or day tours) do a quick search for coupons and deals. If you’re headed to a major city, you can also subscribe to local group purchasing websites for discounts on gourmet meals, museum entries and local experiences that you might not otherwise have considered. For a trip to New York check out DealCatcher or City Guide NY and for London try Groupon (UK) or Retailmenot. If you’re headed somewhere else, a quick search will reveal coupon sites with massive savings for most big-city destinations.
Buy a local SIM card
If you’re planning to be in one country for a decent amount of time, pick up a local SIM card with a few dollars of credit on it. The costs of global roaming can quickly turn a well-planned dream holiday into a budget-breaking nightmare. Even if you don’t plan to use a mobile, having a local SIM there for emergencies is well worth the $5-$10 outlay and can also save the friendship if your travelling companion finds the local bird-life a lot more interesting than you do. Think of a local SIM as travel insurance for your phone bill (and travel buddy’s friendship). Also make sure you call your carrier and ask them to unlock your phone before you leave the country so the local SIM actually works when you arrive.
Kerry Lotzof is communications manager at financial comparison website Mozo and is the former editor of Money magazine.