Making Your Dollar Travel Farther
05/01/2010 - The recession has given many of us grounds to tighten up our spending habits. Non-necessities have been limited, and luxuries—such as travel abroad—have been taken off the table. But perhaps now that some time has passed since the new economic realities have set in, you might be looking for affordable means to take in the sights and sounds of a foreign culture. If this is the case, a well-planned itinerary and a few rules-of-thumb can help you maximize your money overseas.
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Find where the dollar holds up better
Not all currencies perform alike against the dollar. Despite recent gains, the greenback continues to lag behind the pound and the euro. However, exchange rates are favorable in other parts of the world. Mexico, Argentina, Hungary and South Africa are just a few places where the value of the dollar remains strong. Do your research and find a location that matches your travel priorities and your budget. Keep in mind that costs for comparable goods and services could be higher or lower depending on the country.
Look for cheaper housing options
If your son or daughter is the one who will be spending time abroad, a "homestay"—or residing with a local family—may be a good housing option. Along with a room, this arrangement can provide meals and other amenities. As they travel around, students will find youth hostels provide cost-effective accommodations (and usually cooking facilities) for a reasonable nightly fee.
Bed and Breakfasts, Elderhostels, and local hotels may also prove less expensive than the rates at large-chain hotels. With the plethora of online review sites now available, you can research these spots in advance to ensure they're to your taste.
The cost of restaurant meals can quickly add up when you travel overseas. Look for alternative options. Local grocery stores and open-air markets can provide a source of less expensive food to eat on the go, and they're a great introduction into the culture and cuisine of an area.
When you visit restaurants, try to find establishments that cater to the local population. Their prices tend to be lower than tourist-oriented restaurants. A bottle of house wine to go with a meal can often be a better deal than individual drinks. And in many places, it's cheaper if you order a beer, cocktail or even a cappuccino while standing at the bar rather than sitting at a table. Keep in mind that as customs dictate, tipping may or may not be necessary.
For the time you spend in large cities, it will probably be more cost-effective to use public transportation (and walk a lot) rather than renting a car, which can incur parking costs. If you travel by rail, study your options to find the best deals for your itinerary. For air travel, use web resources or inquire with a good travel agent to find the best bargains.
Other cost-saving measures
• Students or others planning an extended stay should explore whether purchasing a local cell phone or buying a phone card offers cheaper connections back home.
• Cash from ATMs usually offers the best exchange rate. Check with your bank or credit card company to find out what fees apply to your transactions.
• Look for passes to events and museums to get the best deals. Many destinations offer package deals that make it more cost-effective to tour favorite attractions.
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