Published on November 14, 2022

Travel Wisely with Style

Traveling wisely is like drinking wisely. It is knowing that you will enjoy the experience more without the last tequila, texts you regret and a hang-over from hell. And so with travel. The trip will be so much better if you have saved and budgeted for it…AND when you have a good idea of where to cut costs and where to splurge.

Planning and research are the key here. Save the YOLO moments for the trip and decisions like where to eat or which site to visit. First, try and request time off so that you can travel to your destination at the tail end of their season or in their off season, when prices drop substantially. See if you can organize leave so that you fly, or stay in any ‘luxe’ lodging, during the week. (Also check that there are no local festivals/ large conferences at your destination as this can derail any money-saving strategy.) Once you have picked a good time, choose your hotel or other lodging option ONLY after checking on multiple platforms, including the hotel website. It is also worth calling the hotel to see if they have some better deals, especially if it is near the end of the business quarter and sales staff need to make quotas.

Check with multiple platforms when booking flights as well. Moreover, do this on different browsers to avoid cookies and dynamic pricing. (This can raise your quoted price during your comparison, pushing you to ‘buy quickly’ before it spikes further.) What about using rewards and booking through travel centers? This may be cheaper but not always. You still need to research and compare. Also note that if anything goes wrong (like delays/ cancellations etc.), you may not be able to troubleshoot without going through the center, which can be a cumbersome process. This is especially true if you are trying to get a refund.

Is travel insurance a good idea? With the current state of travel chaos, insurance can be a life saver, but do not assume the one offered to you on the booking site is a good deal. Read the small print about exclusions as the insurance may not cover the most likely problems you will face. AND if you are paying for your flight and lodging with a credit card, check the rewards it offers first. Its coverage may be superior to the booking platform’s and you will not have to pay extra for it. On the note of credit cards, make sure you have one that does not have onerous foreign transaction fees. And if you do use it abroad to pay for things or withdraw cash, do not select the option to ‘pay in your home currency’, which almost always uses a worse exchange rate for you. The same goes for currency exchange booths at airports. Rather try and find the closest ATM. It is usually the better option.

When you finally get to your destination, it is useful to plan a few must-see things and leave a bunch of days to just explore, indulge in a spontaneous whim, or just do nothing and relax. Research ahead and find a few free things to do in your destination of choice, and mix these up with some paid options with good reviews. Likewise with food. Dining out can be a huge money suck that is not worth the experience. Depending on your type of lodging, you can often eat some meals in, hitting up local grocery stores for supplies. (This can be one one of the most interesting parts of an international trip!) Even if you don’t have kitchen facilities in your lodging, most grocery stores have excellent and affordable deli sections.

And lastly, please avoid souvenirs. Souvenirs are things that always ‘seem like a good idea at the time’ but really aren’t. Your friends and family back home don’t want an overpriced keyring or t-shirt they are unlikely to wear. And most of these are probably made in another country anyway. A better option is that local grocery store. Why not buy some affordable local confectionary or spices? At least it will probably get eaten or used. Bon Voyage!


About the Author:

Krista Tuomi, Professor in the International Economic Policy program at the School of International Service, American UniversityKrista Tuomi is a professor in the International Economic Policy program at School of International Service, American University. She has worked for many years as a policy analyst in the areas of innovation and investment. Her regular Bizwomen column, media interviews, and research focus on topics that include angel investing, crowdfunding, non-profit management and fundraising. 

She also conducts workshops in the US and abroad on all forms of small business and non-profit financing. Her passion for the field of innovation and entrepreneurship extends to her pro-bono work.

Currently, she works with SCORE, Greenwood, Boots to Business, Martha’s Table, Black Girl Ventures, Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and the Angel Capital Association.