Travelling on a Budget

Advice on taking a dream vacation without going into debt to pay for it

Canadians love to travel. Living in the second-largest country in the world, we have a wealth of domestic travel destinations from the Rocky Mountains to Niagara Falls to the Bay of Fundy. And we love to travel abroad too – 60 per cent of Canadians own a passport, compared to just 30 per cent of Americans. Speaking of our neighbours to the south, travel to the USA has hit record highs over the past few years.

Yet, some of us are travel-averse due to a lack of free time, logistics, and most importantly, the costs involved. Partially due to the vast size of our country, it can be expensive to get from point A to point B, and we are often at the mercy of the fluctuating value of the Loonie.

But travel doesn’t have to break the bank. Consolidated Credit has put together the following tips to help you travel on a budget:

Pre-vacation planning

Executing the perfect budget travel plan can be divided into two parts, and the first part involves all of the planning and preparation that goes into a travel plan. Putting time and effort into your pre-vacation planning will see huge pay-offs once you arrive at your destination.

Budget. Don’t think of travel as a one-off expense, because purchasing a ticket or paying for a hotel can be a big hit to your bank account and could see you slipping into debt. Instead, plan ahead, make an estimate of what you would reasonably like to spend on a vacation, and work a “travel savings” category into your monthly budget. Small, regular payments will be a lot easier to swallow and soon you will be able to cover your travel costs without worrying about going into debt.

Savings account. An easy way to facilitate your monthly vacation savings would be to open a savings account and set up automatic deductions from your paycheque. Every little bit helps, and you are less likely to dip into your funds if they are in a separate account.

Destination. Think carefully about a destination that will give you the best bang for your buck. If you’re on a smaller budget, Europe or Asia might be out of the picture. There are still many exciting destinations within striking distance.

Costs. Once you have settled on a destination, research it and figure out the costs involved. Think about the full picture – vacation bills go beyond flights and hotels. Think about meals, entertainment, shopping, and transportation as well. Use travel websites to find savings – you might even be able to package many of the costs together for big discounts. If you have a credit card with travel rewards, check your account balance to see if you can fly or stay for free.

Off-peak. If you have the flexibility with your vacation time, try scheduling an off-peak trip. A travel package to the Caribbean might be twice as expensive during the March Break period as it is just a month or two later. November through March is considered low season in Europe – you’ll save money, avoid crowds, and not have to deal with sweltering heat.

Friends and family. Think about your connections that live around the world and consider staying with them when you travel. Chances are, they’ll be happy to share their home with a friend they haven’t seen in a long time. Offer to pitch in on groceries or buy a gift as a token of thanks with some of the money you saved on hotels and restaurants.

Once you arrive

When you get on the ground, there are ways to make your dollar stretch while still enjoying your destination. A guide book or a chat with the concierge may give you some insider tips on how to enjoy your new surroundings on the cheap.

Grocery stores. Just like at home, eating out for every meal will add up, especially if you’re inclined to splurge on local delicacies. Save on your food budget by grabbing snacks or easy-to-prepare meals at a local grocery store. Shopping in a market may be a cultural experience in itself, and you might be surprised to see how inexpensive the local food can be. Pack a meal and enjoy a picnic in a park.

Avoid touristy restaurants. Tourist trap restaurants are often crowded and overpriced. Find out where the locals eat and you’ll get a much more relaxed, authentic dining experience. If you’d like to truly get on the local level, try street food and spend a fraction of the restaurant prices (just make sure they’re clean – the busier the stand, the fresher the food).

Getting around. If your destination is outside of walking distance, consider buying a day pass for public transit, or rent a bicycle. You’ll save a fortune on taxis. If you’re driving, use GasBuddy.com (in the US and Canada) to find the lowest gas prices in your destination city.

Using ATMs. Research the fees associated with using your debit or credit card abroad. You may get a better currency exchange rate at an ATM than a money exchange bureau. Make large withdrawals (within reason and personal safety) to cut down on the amount of visits to an ATM and the charges that come with it.

Have fun for free. Not every attraction has an expensive entry fee. Museums, parks, and beaches offer free or low-cost fun for the whole family.

Despite your best frugal efforts, if you still find yourself unable to afford a vacation due to debts or other financial burdens, call Consolidated Credit today at . Our trained credit counsellors can give you free budget advice – maybe a few tweaks in your budget will give you the extra cash you need to indulge in a trip. If your problems run deeper than that, our counsellors can help provide the tools that you need to tackle your debt. You can also get started online by trying our Free Budget Analysis.