If it's been a while since your last break, and the daily grind is getting you down, you might be in need of a well-deserved holiday.
Whether you've been saving for a while, or you're ready to start planning a getaway, there are a few things you can do to make your money go further and help you squeeze in a few more activities or even extend your stay, without compromising your desired level of luxury.
The excitement of settling on a destination is half the fun. You might know exactly where you want to go, but if you're not sure yet, there are definitely some holiday destinations that are cheaper than others. Consider flights or how to get there, accommodation costs, transport, meals and the exchange rate. For example, a trip to Rottnest is convenient, but if you don't do your homework, accommodation and island costs can run on the higher side when you get there. Similarly, a flight to the Maldives might be surprisingly cheap on sale (and the call of the overwater bungalows is very appealing!) but you can expect to pay hundreds or even thousands per night. Most Asian countries can easily tick all of the boxes, but hunt around for some unexpected deals for other parts of Australia and the globe too.
With so many comparison sites and last minute deal sites around, it's easy to book your own holiday, particularly if you're just looking for the best price and you're open to options around airlines or accommodation. Some hotels on booking sites will even give you a free cancellation option, so you can lock in some accommodation for peace of mind, but still keep an eye out for a better deal. Watch out for hidden booking fees on comparison sites (they can be higher than booking directly, particularly for flights).
But is it worth discarding the idea of the travel agent? It depends on your type of holiday. Travel agents can often access or negotiate special deals or offers not available to the public, like bonus nights or breakfast. Best of all, they can save you a lot of time. The more complicated your planned or desired itinerary, the more valuable it can be to call on the experts.
Whether it has been a place on your bucket list or you've picked your destination out of the air, it's worth spending some quality time on the net and chatting to friends to find out what to see, do and eat on your holiday. You want to have a great time and see everything you've always wanted, particularly if you're travelling a long way!
Work out the must do's - sights to see, places to eat. Perhaps there's a historic hotel or a bungalow you just have to stay in. Or a three hat restaurant. Allocate enough money to cover these in your plan and then look for areas you wouldn't mind cutting back. Scrimp on your accommodation for a couple of nights to fit in a premium tour, or cut back on the tours and explore on your own. You might be trying to stretch your budget but it doesn't mean you have to miss out.
If you're heading overseas, write yourself a little note with a rough conversion for the exchange rate. Many an excess dollar has been spent because of a wayward conversion. Don't forget you'll often get hit with fees for international ATM withdrawals so plan accordingly - this might be by taking cash before you go, or being savvy about where to use your card to minimise the amount of cash you need to take out. Stick to reputable places to spend though, and keep your cards safe.
One expense that can come back to bite you when you go overseas, even after you get home, is your phone bill. It's tempting to turn your data on to use Google Maps when you get lost, or to call the family to check in, but the roaming charges can come back to bite you.
Your phone provider will usually have a package designed for when you're travelling, but also consider hiring a secure, portable Wi-Fi device. They usually cost the same or less than a roaming package but with a much higher data limit. That way you can stay in touch using Facebook or Skype, and slip it in your bag to connect to the net or Google Maps when you get lost in the back streets. If these aren't options, take a look at prepaid travel SIM cards - you can usually pick these up at the airport.
Downloading a Google map of the area you’re visiting before you go can get you out of tricky situations as you don't need to be connected to the internet to use it.
Travelling is always an adventure and can be extremely rewarding. If you want to have the very best possible time, think about some of these ideas which might help you stretch your dollar just that little bit further allowing you to enjoy a longer holiday or even more special experiences while you're away.
Take a look at more hints for saving for a holiday and travelling.
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