I started writing this back when I was still in Europe, just before I left. My mistakes and regrets were still very fresh in my mind, and I was already thinking about the lessons I learnt before I had even returned home…
I’m nearing the end of my 10 week epic Europe trip, and I’ve started reflecting on what I have experienced over the last 9 weeks. I’ve had the time of my life, but I’ve also learnt many things, often the hard way. Here is part one of my three part series recalling the mistakes from my recent trip overseas and what I would do differently next time.
Mistakes with Money
Under budgeting and over spending
This is probably most peoples biggest mistake they make when travelling, especially if you have not travelled much before. I aimed to save a lot more than what I did, and did not completely reach my savings goal. I ended up running out of money. I thought this may happen, but I didn’t expect it to be as soon as it was.
Thank goodness for the gererousity of my parents and friends, because I would not have been able to fully complete my trip without their help. I even had to cancel one of my tours because I needed that money back. I missed out on seeing and doing some things I wanted to do because I did not have the money to do them. I still had a great time and I possibly did things I wouldn’t normally do, but I would have enjoyed the trip more without that extra stress.
For anyone planning a big trip to a place like Europe, I would recommend taking your budget and doubling it. Aim to save double of your budget, because chances are you will spend a lot more than you expected. There’s often unexpected costs or things you don’t plan for like public transport or taxis, tourist taxes at accommodation, tips and spending more than you planned on food and drink.
Ignoring my budget
Speaking of money, let’s talk about my budget. I had a budget, but it was thrown out the window as soon as I got to Europe. “I’m on holidays, so I will spend as much as I want and have a good time!” That’s what I said to myself in the first few weeks. The end of your trip seems so far away that you don’t think about budgeting for then. This is why I often spent lots of money on dining out and drinking at clubs and bars. I shouted rounds of drinks. I went to expensive places to eat just because I could. I also went shopping. And spent my money on ridiculous things that I didn’t need.
I should have picked a budget for each location and stuck to it each day. If I went under budget one day then it would be ok to use a bit more the next day. In theory I know that this is a practical and logical way to approach a holiday to ensure you enjoy things without going to the excess.
Unfortunately, it is completed different when you are actually in the situation. You get caught up in the moment. You get talked into doing an activity. You have far too much to drink and everything seems like a great idea.
This is why I would double my original savings for a future trip. I would also exercise an “envelope” budget when travelling. I did this when I was budgeting at home and it worked for me: In this case I would get cash out, place it in an envelope and this was the only cash I could use. Once it was gone, that was it. Physically seeing the cash disappear would be a strong incentive to stick to my budget. The problem I had when travelling was that when I ran out of cash, I would just go get more out at an ATM.
Not organising adequate cash beforehand
One thing I wish I did was get all my currency exchange organised before I travelled. I should have organised Croatian Kuna, British Pound, Swiss Francs and Czech Crown before I headed overseas. I did have my travel money card with Euros and Pounds preloaded on to it, but it would have been helpful to already have some cash on my ready for when I need it.
Organising all of this beforehand would have made travel a little bit easier as I wouldn’t have to go searching for an ATM when I got to the destination country. This was another mistake I made as I would withdraw money from my account and got charged international currency conversion fees and international ATM fees. Meaning that everything cost so much more. This was particularly a problem in Croatia as I was there for almost 3 weeks and didn’t take anywhere near enough money out. I ended up being at the ATM every 2-3 days.
What I should have done was withdraw the cash and put the majority of it in a safe keeping place (such as securely in my suitcase) and only taking with me what I needed for the day. If I had leftover money I always had the opportunity to convert it into another currency.
There were plenty more mistakes made, and many lessons learnt…