03 February 2006

Planning for cheap travel

When it comes to traveling on a shoestring budget, a little bit of planning can help your hard-earned dollars go a long way.

Keeping accommodation costs down, researching the cost of living in your destination, taking a sensible mix of travel money and keeping a daily budget should result in an enjoyable and economical trip.

Jessa Boanas-Dewes from Lonely Planet's talk2us team, which gives free travel advice, said the first thing to do when planning a trip is to work out the money you'll have to lay out on pre-departure costs such as flights, visas, immunisations, insurance and equipment.

"Depending on where you are going, picking up on accommodation specials in advance can save a bundle," she said.

Another way to keep costs down was to exploit your contacts - look up old friends and long lost relatives and ask if you could stay with them.

"Cutting down even a few days of accommodation costs - especially in expensive countries - can save a significant amount of money," she said.

Travellers should also have investigated the cost of living in the places they are headed.

Check these details out and work out roughly how much you should spend each day of your trip so you can make your money last steadily through your journey," Ms Boanas-Dewes said.

"Then add at least 20 per cent. Allow for the occasional luxury, and have a little 'emergency fund' somewhere in case of emergency."

It's also worth finding out from your bank how much they charge for ATM withdrawals overseas.

"These days ATMs are mushrooming and the most cost-effective way to access your money we've heard of is putting your credit card in credit and withdrawing funds as you need," Ms Boanas-Dewes said.

"But make sure you tell your credit card company you are travelling, otherwise they might block your card if they see charges suddenly coming in from overseas to combat potential fraud."

American Express head of travellers cheques Barry Fletcher said people should take a mix of travel money - a card of some type, a small amount of cash and the balance of their funds in travellers cheques.

"We recommend that they do carry a card of some description, use it when they do want to make a large purchase but they don't want to eat a hole into their available cash funds," he said.

"`If they do take cash, we suggest only to take a relatively small amount in the local currency where they will be landing so they can cover off any initial purchases, whether it's a cab from the airport or whether they just want a coffee when they land."

Travellers cheques provided an excellent budgeting tool because you always know what you have spent and how much you have remaining, Mr Fletcher said.

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