Sticking to the Holiday Budget: 6 Tips for the Summer
After two years without many travel plans, 2022’s summer holiday season is set to be epic – but the cost of living crisis means that, for many, a thirst for adventure must be tempered by a careful budget.
Even for the most frugal of people, holidays are a time for indulgence, so the idea of imposing restrictions can be a moodkill. But never fear: there are ways to stretch your cash so that you can enjoy a memorable vacation without worrying!
Sticking to the Holiday Budget: Preparation
It may sound obvious, but it’s important to not only think about what you’re going to spend on your trip, but how you’ll pay. Do you prefer cash or card? If you’re planning to take cash, be sure to shop around for the best deals. You may find it’s cheaper to order currency online and have it delivered; or, if you have a credit card, certain providers offer a preferential exchange rate (such as M&S). The key thing is to avoid changing money at the airport – a study by The Independent illuminated the ‘atrocious’ rates offered at airport bureaux de change, stating that, on a £1,000 transaction, ‘the difference between buying and selling rates is more than enough for a return flight to New York’.
Another thing to consider is setting a daily budget. This is best done before you embark on your trip – that way, you’ll know exactly how much money you have to play with overall, and how much you’d like to set aside for each day of your holiday (you could even categorise this by food, tips, excursions, and other costs).
Sticking to the Holiday Budget: Travel Insurance
If money is tight, eschewing travel insurance might seem tempting – but this could prove costly in the long run. Travel insurance, after all, isn’t just about peace of mind: it also provides valuable protection against unexpected expenses. Best of all, it doesn’t need to cost the earth.
For a relatively small fee, travel insurance will cover you in the event of:
Cancellations (or missed departures).
Damaged, delayed, or lost baggage.
Additional expenses (for instance, if you’re required to pay for extra accommodation due to a travel delay).
One important note: do always remember that the cheapest policy isn’t always the best value for money – and never forget to read the small print! To make sure you’re getting the most effective cover for the right price, we’d highly recommend discussing your requirements with an experienced adviser.
Sticking to the Holiday Budget: Which Type of Card?
In recent years, using cash when travelling has become less popular (particularly amidst escalating concerns about hygiene following the pandemic). Indeed, a 2021 survey revealed that a quarter of British people did not wish to use cash at all. Fortunately, there are now a plethora of options for overseas spending.
Credit cards, as ever, remain an option – and with a bit of research you can find options that don’t charge exchange fees (some don’t even charge interest or withdrawal fees for getting money out). For sticking to a budget, however, we’d slightly favour a debit or pre-paid card: that way, you won’t be tempted to go ‘over’, as the money in the account is all that you can spend.
Historically, debit cards often charged a small fee for international transactions and withdrawals (and customers didn’t always benefit from a good exchange rate). However, digital banks like Chase, Starling and Monzo have disrupted this part of the industry, offering great benefits to customers spending abroad. Most of them only perform a ‘soft’ credit check, too - meaning that if you only wish to use this account for travel, you can open a secondary account without any concerns.
Sticking to the Holiday Budget: Starling, Monzo or Chase?
When it comes to choosing a debit card for overseas spending, there are too many options to list here – so we’re going to focus on three popular providers: Starling, Monzo, or Chase. To help you make your decision, here are the key things to be aware of.
Like Monzo and Starling, Chase is a digital bank – meaning that you will need to download the mobile app in order to use it.
Fee-free spending worldwide.*
ATM charges may apply, depending on the bank. If travelling in the US, you can use Chase’s numberless card to make free withdrawals at any Chase Bank ATM.
£700 monthly limit on ATM withdrawals.
Uses the Mastercard exchange rate for currency conversion.
Fee-free spending and cash withdrawals worldwide* (note that some ATM providers apply their own charges, so do check before making a withdrawal).
£300 daily limit on ATM (up to six withdrawals per day).
ATM withdrawals are free up to £200 within each thirty-day period – after this point, Monzo applies a 3% fee (some ATM providers apply their own charges, too, so do check before making a withdrawal).
Uses the Mastercard exchange rate for currency conversion.
* There are a small number of countries for which the benefits listed above would not apply (due to local sanctions or restrictions). For more up-to-date information, check the website of your chosen card provider prior to travel.
Sticking to the Holiday Budget: Pay in Local Currency
You may be asked whether you’d like to pay in Sterling or in the local currency – and typically you’d be wise to choose the latter. If you pay in local currency, the transaction will be converted back to your home currency at the point of sale, which tends to be better value; if you choose to pay in Sterling, you’re likely to pay an inflated price.
Sticking to the Holiday Budget: How to Use Your Phone
To roam or not to roam? That is the question… and, for travellers with a UK contract, it’s been made more difficult by the introduction of new roaming charges within the EU (following Brexit). Using data abroad can be very expensive – and you can spend without even realising, because it’s not only browsing the web that eats into data, but also phone updates and app upgrades (which can happen in the background without your knowledge). With this in mind, for many travellers it’s simpler – and safer – to switch data roaming off entirely.
But what if you need to use your phone and can’t rely on free WiFi? If you want to avoid a big bill, there are a few options. First of all, you could set a spending cap: this will mean that you’re unable to exceed a certain limit for usage, thereby avoiding any costly surprises (implementing a spending cap is usually easily done via your provider’s website or app, but if in doubt give them a call).
The second option is to find out if your plan enables you to use your allowance when abroad (Vodafone’s Unlimited Data Xtra plan allows for this, for example).
Finally, you may be able to buy a ‘data pass’ which will allow you to use your allowance (in part – there may be restrictions) whilst abroad for a fee. For example, for certain plans EE offers the ‘Roam Abroad’ add on (which replaced the popular ‘Roam Further’ pass from July 2021). For £10 a month, you can use your data in 47 European destinations as well as five others (including the USA and Australia). This is a thirty-day rolling add-on and fair usage restrictions apply (limiting you to 50 GB of data per month, depending on your contract).
Please note all prices quoted are accurate at the time of publishing.