Traveling on a Budget

Little things that add up to the travel budget

It always happens to the best of us. We pride ourselves of traveling on the cheap, only to encounter a little boo-boo, a little snag on the well-laid travel plans resulting in little expenses that will undeniably put a dent to your well-curated and well-appropriated travel budget.

Whenever we travel, I always end up preparing an spreadsheet, indicating our itinerary, our expenses and the appropriate budget that will go in each item. This includes the airport and travel tax (which we *joyously* pay for here in the Philippines), the cab fare to and from the airport, entrance to attractions and the food. These are the basics. But more than that, I also included the expenses for basic grocery like mineral water and the usual late-night snacks that my family enjoy. They are usually in the areas of $5 to $10 but they can add up pretty quick. We also allocate shopping money (per person) and include it in the total budget to give each person an idea of how much he or she will spend per day.

Little expenses that can put a dent in the wallet include:

* Forgetting your camera charger while using rechargeable AA batteries – Before we switched to our current digital camera with built-in batteries, we used to own a clunky Canon camera that worked really good but was still operating through rechargeable AA batteries. Imagine forgetting the charger and having to buy AA batteries the whole time.

* Staying in a hostel and having to rent a towel because you forgot to bring your own. The same goes for a adapter. Invest in a universal adapter that you can lug with your any country you would go. Also, bring your own padlock if the hostel has lockers on site, but no padlock. Renting a padlock will also incur you additional expenses.

* Mineral water – there are also countries, like Singapore, where the water is so safe there’s no point buying expensive bottles of mineral water. If you visit theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios, you can refill your empty water bottles instead of buying one from the concessionaire. While we are in the subject of theme parks, you can bring in light snacks which can stave off hunger while you are in the park: candies, small bags of chips or dried nuts or fruits are some good choices. This way, you can focus on splurging on an in-park lunch instead of spending small change on juices, popcorn and candy bars which are usually more expensive when bought inside the park.

* Don’t forget to print your tickets before you go to the airport – this is obvious, but you won’t believe how there’s still some who would forget obvious details such as these. Renting a PC in the airport and having your eTicket printed is very expensive.

* Snacks – it will be very impossible to forego snacking in a foreign country, especially if there’s just too many delightful little things that you don’t usually see in your country. Like me for example, I go crazy whenever I am inside Lawson or Family Mart because the things they sell don’t exist in the Philippines. Next thing I know, I’ll be carrying Japanese fashion magazines aside from the snacks I intend to originally buy. If you plan on buying chips and other snacks, opt for the groceries instead of the convenience stores which has a higher mark-up.

* Overpriced souvenirs – personally, I am not a big souvenir shopper. I tend to skip souvenir shopping and focus instead on buying things I’ll use for a long time or unique items that represent the country that I am. I tend to remember my vacations not from the tons of stuff I bought but on the memories I accumulated while traveling. One of the best “travel souvenirs” I had are some stamps in my travel journal from a store in Shilin Night Market. The stamps featured images of Taipei 101, Teresa Teng and even a bubble tea. They added a unique visual element in my travel blog, something not give by a key chain which I will likely misplace in a few months’ time.

Being a perpetually-broke travel addict has taught me to prioritize attractions based on my family’s hobbies and interests. We are not really the type who would enjoy paying SGD20 each just to go up the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park in order to see the Singapore skyline. We’d rather see the money go to a adventure at Night Safari or spend a day lounging beach side in Siloso.

At the end of the day, it’s really not about how much money you have spent, it’s all about the memories you keep in your heart.

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