Taking a trip abroad is an exciting adventure, but it can also be very expensive as you’re constantly plagued by temptations of gourmet food, souvenirs and overpriced touristy gimmicks — not to mention the currency rates of some countries.

Don’t worry — you don’t need to go broke when you travel in order to have a fulfilling trip. Instead, plan ahead and prepare yourself financially with these easy tips to ensure that you have enough money to sustain your trip, but don’t overspend or have any financial surprises.

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Although this seems obvious, it’s surprising how quickly your funds can dwindle when you travel as you pay for dining out, lodging, touristy activities and keepsakes. Before you go, decide how much you’re willing to spend in total on your trip and break this sum into categories, like food, transportation and overnight accommodations. Allot an appropriate amount to each category and try to not deviate from your plan. To cut back on expenses while you’re traveling, consider these options:

  • Look up if museums and attractions offer free admission on certain days.
  • Buy breakfast foods at a grocery store to avoid eating every meal in a restaurant.
  • Use public transportation, like the subway or bus, as an inexpensive way to navigate a city.

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Debit Cards, ATMs, & Credit Cards

First and foremost, when you prepare for a trip abroad, you should always notify your bank and credit card companies. Although their watchful eye over your accounts is appreciated, it can be a nightmare if your card is canceled due to “suspicious charges” because it’ll leave you without access to cash. Using a debit card abroad may incur a foreign or international transaction fee, which is usually 1 to 3 percent of the purchase price or per ATM withdrawal. Research debit cards that don’t charge international transaction fees and ask your bank for recommendations – some have affiliates or international branches, like Citibank.

Also, keep in mind that using your debit card or ATM card to withdraw cash has a better exchange rate than converting cash. Similarly, find a credit card without an international transaction fee. Lastly, when using your debit card or credit card, avoid DCC scams, or dynamic currency conversion, by always opting to pay in the host country’s currency. For example, a store in Europe may ask you if you’d like to pay in Euros or U.S. dollars. If you choose to pay in U.S. dollars, you’re using the store’s exchange rate, which is generally worse than your bank’s.

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As a general rule of thumb, it’s better not to carry large sums of cash with you while you travel. Rather, keep a back up “stash” in a safe place in case of an emergency, like your cards being lost or stolen.


Before you travel abroad, make sure you have multiple photocopies of everything in your wallet. Keep these copies in a safe place separate from the original cards. Storing pictures of cards electronically via email is also a good idea so that you can have access to your information from anywhere. Lastly, before you travel, make a spreadsheet of all of the international phone numbers you should call in case your cards are lost or stolen. Having a readily available list with this important information will make your life much less stressful in the event of an unfortunate situation.

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