The Only Way to Travel (*Cash Burns*)When done for more than a month travel can cost approximately nothing when compared to your current living situation.  It can also be horrendously expensive.  If you would like to blow all of your money travelling, here are some ideas.

Eat Out: Every Meal

When you’re travelling its just too difficult to go to the grocery store and make some simple meals.  Certainly making sure that the place you stay at has a kitchen would be way too expensive. Make sure to eat out for every meal.  If you just order all of the food that looks good you can hit $10 for breakfast, $20 for lunch and dinner each.  That works out to $70 per day, which is about what a company might give you in per-diem, so you’re on the right track.  If you must save money, eat fast food.

Purchase Alcohol at the Restaurant

While you’re eating out it would be gauche to bring your own bottle of wine or beer bought at a grocery store.  Make sure to purchase wine at the restaurant, and always purchase the second cheapest wine.  After all you don’t want to be a cheapskate, but why waste money, right? This could add another $5 per day.

Pay Attention to the Total Hotel Bill, Not the Nightly Rate

You need to see a lot of stuff on your vacation.  You don’t want to be tied down to the same place.  Make sure to book a lot of different hotels so that you can see everything you want to.  If you book rooms as you go you’ll get more comfortable with paying higher, and higher prices for rooms.  After all, how often do you go on vacation?  You don’t to wind up having to share a bathroom, do you?  So this might start out costing you $80 per night and creep up to $100 or $120 by the end of your trip.  While you might be able to save a couple dollars booking for a week or a month in the same place, then it isn’t really travelling is it?

Rent a Car for the Entire Period

Look, you can’t really see another place without driving it right?  Better rent a car for the whole period.  Make sure you only rent rooms at hotels where you can actually park that car.  From what I’ve seen, this can run anywhere from $300 to $800 per month.  Not so bad!  Don’t forget to add the cost of gas though.  In the US gas is pretty cheap.  Outside the US it can be 2-3x as expensive.  If you’re using the car as the primary method of travel, better count on buying more gas than you do at home.  For me, I’d assume $300 per month in gas.

Bring Plenty of US Cash to get changed if abroad

It can be a hassle to use an american credit card while abroad, but everyone takes cash.  Bring a bunch of dollars, but make sure to keep them safe.  Wouldn’t want your wad of hundreds to get stolen!  Then you can go to one of many cash exchanges.  Their markup is 10%, but what are you gonna do, nothing beats the convenience of cash for foreign travel.

The Bill

Food & Drink: $80 per day, $2400 per month per person

Hotel: $100 per night average, $3000 per month

Transport: $700 per month.

Total bill for a one month trip: $6100, but wait, we still need to tack on the 10% markup.  So that’s $6710!  I don’t know if that’s what you spend while you’re at home, but I sure don’t.  If you’re going to be on vacation for an extended period, try to keep it more reasonable.  How to keep it more reasonable?  Invert what we just talked about.

  • Create a home base.  Get the minimum nightly rate for the entire period by booking one place for an extended period. Make sure it includes a kitchen. Nice places can be had in many countries for less than $20 per night if booked for at least a month.
  • Keep the eating out to a minimum.  This applies when you’re on travel just as much as when you’re at home.  You can cut your eating costs to a tenth of restaurant dining by simply cooking yourself. Buy whole foods, fruits and vegetables.  By all means, enjoy the cuisine of the country you’re visiting, but if you’re anything like me, the 10th meal in a row of the same food will probably have you crawling up a wall in any case.
  • Figure out alternative transport. Most metropolitan areas around the world have inexpensive alternatives to cars.  $30-40 per day of gas and car rental costs buys you a great deal of metro, bus, and train tickets.  Don’t underestimate the possible cost savings here!
  • Never get cash changed.  There are so many ways of avoiding foreign transaction fees or the nutty markups charged by money exchanges.  ATM’s can be better if you use a checking account which will reimburse your ATM fees. Use credit cards which charge no foreign transaction fees when possible.

Stick to these rules, and do your best to cut expenses you won’t need while abroad (phone bill, car insurance, maybe even rent), and you’ll be well on your way to the coveted net-zero (no additional cost) vacation.