True Reflections: Travel Tips on a Budget

Xiomara Lorenzo

By Xiomara Lorenzo
As former Director of Society of Grownups, Xiomara brings together deep expertise with consumer-focused investment and retail banking research, while wearing the latest in 3D printed fashion.
Posted on 04/02/2018

My wife and I love to travel. Domestic or international—doesn’t matter—if there’s a plane, train, or automobile that can get us there, we’re game. We appreciate how much travel can help us to relax and get out of our routines. It also allows us to see the world from different perspectives. Personally, I love re-exploring places I’ve already been because I don’t feel the pressure to do all of the things I did on the first visit.

Travel is our passion. We have each been to over 30 countries and my wife has explored 31 states within the US. During this time we have picked up several travel tips from the planning phase to managing our spending. I’m sure we’ll learn many more tips and travel hacks in our future adventures, but we’ve developed a process over the years that works best for us.

For example, we’re starting to plan a trip to Europe this summer, and our first step was to lay out how much we plan to spend. Regarding budgeting, we usually allocate ~$2-3K per person for international trips lasting 10-14 days, with no children.

We allocate this amount roughly as follows:

Airfare: between 25-40%, usually a via flash deal from Scott’s Cheap Flights or TravelNoire

Accommodations: ~30% for AirBnb

Food: 10-25%

Activities & shopping: 5-20%

If $2,000 - $3,000 per person seems like a lot of money, that’s because it is! But because travel is so important to us, we’ve prioritized it in our spending plan. We budget for travel savings all year long using Qapital, so we’re prepared when it’s time to book a trip.

Over time, however, we’ve realized that besides these core expenses, there are a lot of ancillary expenses that we didn’t expect. Through some trial and error, we’ve figured out what’s worth spending on and where we can save on these extra costs.

Before your trip:

  • If traveling abroad, use a credit card that does not have transaction fees or, if it makes sense for your financial situation, consider signing up for one.
  • Be mindful of pre-trip spending such as shopping for travel items (i.e. new luggage, a neck pillow, or a comfortable pair of walking shoes).
  • Consider travel insurance—it can add up to $50-$100 or more to your trip, but can cover losses not covered by your credit card insurance or renters insurance.
  • Budget for taxis to and from the airport or train station, in case taking public transportation is not a viable option.
  • Consider pre-buying tickets and passes that may offer discounts for booking ahead, such as train tickets to take you from the airport and tours or museum tickets. If you’re a student, bring your student ID as many places will honor it.


  • Check with your cell phone provider for how much it would cost use your plan abroad. Estimate that with heavier than normal use of Google Maps & Translate, communication apps like What’sApp, etc., you could end up using as much as 6GB of data on a 7 day trip.
  • If you don’t use your cell phone provider aboard, consider getting a local SIM card, often sold at the airport or sometimes at newspaper shops. Depending on the length of your trip, ask if they have SIM card packages for 1-2 week stays. These are often cheaper and give you more data than buying a SIM card a la carte (and make sure you don't lose your original SIM card!)


  • If you want to travel outside of your main destination, consider renting a car. Note: manual transmissions are going to be cheaper, sometimes by half, than what you’ll be charged for an automatic transmission.
    • Some credit cards come with the collision damage waiver on rentals. Confirm with your card company beforehand so that you don’t pay double.
    • Beware of toll fees. Some countries charge significant tolls for driving on highways that can total more than $150.
    • If you plan to drive, instead of renting a navigation system, use your phone. Pack a USB cord, a USB car charger, and a phone cradle and mount. Make sure to confirm with the rental agency that there is a USB port or lighter in the car.
    • Don’t speed while driving or skip paying public transportation costs—trust me, they will enforce the fine!


  • Consider which meals you definitely want to eat out and cook the rest at your accommodations, if possible.
  • Before going on your trip, pack light-weight, easy takeaway food such as granola bars, oatmeal packs, etc.
  • As an alternative to sit-down meals, enjoy snacking your way through the day—i.e. enjoying local food trucks, stands, and quick eateries. I lived off of Japan’s 7- Elevens!
  • In some countries, getting your restaurant meal as a takeaway lowers the price by 5-10%. Look for a sign or ask.


  • Instead of paying $3-5.99 to rent streaming movies for the airplane, download them on to your device from Netflix or raid the $0.99 section of the iTunes movie rental selection.
  • Bring an Amazon HDMI firestick ($40) to connect to your hotel TV instead of renting a movie after a long day of exploring.
  • Unless you’re in a pinch, don’t buy travel adapters at the airport. They are way too expensive. Consider getting these items online before your trip or from a local department or large grocery store.

No matter how elaborate or simple the trip, traveling can end up costing a lot more than you planned on. But by simply being prepared to spend on ancillary costs, you can factor these expenses into your budget. And with a few tips and tricks, your next trip doesn’t have to break the bank.

Interested in getting more ways to make your trip work for you?

Happy planning and safe travels!