Hello! Just popping in to say that I have written not one, but two articles on how to save money for a holiday and other holiday and travel related money hacks, for Verve and The News Minute and I’ve compiled both of them for the blog (including a bonus tip for the blog!). I feel like with the advent/invasion of social media, taking a holiday has become some kind of public outing and there’s no denying a certain kind of pressure to travel to really exotic/fancy places, which doesn’t come cheap. We travel to spend quality time with the people we want to (and ourselves) but lately, I see that people are putting on like, a show, when they go on vacation, with constant Instagram stories and facebook updates. I’m guilty of this myself and I am consciously going to avoid it henceforth – while I do enjoy sharing on social media, I definitely want to let go of the ‘upload right here right now’ attitude and enjoy the moment (by the way, if you’re holidaying in Europe, staying in the moment will also help you protect your belongings from pickpockets).
Save money for a holiday by starting a recurring deposit account
A recurring deposit account is a type of bank account where you can set aside a specific sum of money every month. It can be as low as Rs. 100/- or as high as Rs. 1,00,000/-. You can hold a recurring deposit account for a year, after which the money will be sent back to your savings bank account along with interest. The reason I prefer starting Recurring Deposit accounts whenever a vacation beckons or is in the offing is because it allows me to save up a substantial amount of money without too much effort. To conjure Rs. 2,00,000/- out of the blue for a holiday might be hard for someone on a salary, but if you’ve been setting aside Rs.20,000/- a month, you’ll have that and more by the end of just one year. A Recurring Deposit account is also an easy way to create a vacation fund for your family, so if you’ve got a holiday on your mind, it’s time to open your own RD!
Spend after you save, not the other way around
Saving, much like dieting, requires discipline. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told myself, at the beginning of a month, that I’d save a certain amount of money, only to find myself, at the end of the month, wondering where my salary vanished. This was because I had postponed the act of saving right to the end and jeopardized my vacation fund by succumbing to sales and other expensive distractions. Thankfully, I soon wised up and made saving the first item on my list and that ensured that my dream holidays were always within reach.
Do Your Research
Planning a vacation is never as easy as just going to one website, seeing a price and booking some tickets. Take some time to research assiduously to ensure that you are getting the most out of your money. Use travel specific search engines like Expedia or Booking.com . You can also use websites like Travel Triangle or Pick Your Trail to investigate sample itineraries or customize holiday packages based on your budget. Don’t forget to delete cookies from your browser or do your searches in ‘incognito’ mode! Travel websites use your browsing history to hike prices when they know you’re searching for hotels or tickets to certain locations regularly.
Signing up for a membership with hotel chains or hotel booking websites can result in savings by way of discounts that are offered only to members. These can vary from free breakfasts to ‘members only prices’ or points that can be converted into credit for your next trip. Booking in advance through these sites can result in even bigger discounts. Make sure you know what the cancellation policy is like, though! Some hotels don’t offer refunds on cancellation, so if your trip isn’t set in stone, it might make more sense to pay for a rate that is refundable.
Are you using the right credit card?
If you’re the kind who uses your credit card regularly, consider swapping your current credit card for one that offers deals on travel. My previous credit card, for example, was a regular credit card that didn’t have a specialised rewards programme. I swapped it for one that let me convert my credit card points into airline miles. Although it wasn’t enough for international flights, it helped me save on purchasing domestic tickets.
Travel Insurance is worth the money
There’s always a chance that your holiday might end up becoming memorable for all the wrong reasons, so travel insurance is a necessity, especially if you’re travelling solo or with young children. Most travel insurance policies will cover passport loss, baggage loss, loss of cash and hospitalization charges. There are many different insurance companies that offer travel insurance, so do your research and purchase a policy that you know will cover the emergencies that you consider more likely – if you’re travelling with kids, for example, make sure your travel insurance will take care of hospitalization expenses because hospitalization charges abroad are incredibly expensive.
Think beyond hotels
Good hotels, especially in Europe, can get really expensive. The good news is that we live in the age of Airbnb! Instead of searching for hotels, look through Airbnb listings where you can rent an apartment (or if you’re feeling really strapped for cash, you can even take a private room) in the city you’re going to holiday in. My husband and I rented out apartments instead of hotels during all our trips to Europe and it worked out both cheaper and more convenient than a hotel room.
Be a smart cookie
Travel websites and booking websites utilise your browsing history and sneakily increase prices when they know that you’ve been checking ticket and accommodation prices for a specific location regularly. So, when it comes to making the final decision on tickets or even just for price comparison, delete cookies from your browser or look up prices in incognito mode.
Cash vs Card
There are always differing views with respect to the amount of cash that you should take with you during your trip. Although this isn’t an issue while travelling locally, it makes sense to carry more cash when you’re travelling to hilly destinations where network signals are not strong (there’s no point asking for card machines when you’re trying to buy thukpa in Sikkim, for example). If you’re travelling internationally, however, it makes the most sense to carry 20% of the total money you wish to spend in cash and the rest, loaded on to a ForEx card. A Forex card is similar to a debit/credit card, except the latter will incur charges when you use it abroad. You can also use Forex cards across ATMs and they are quite easy to block in case of theft. Most banks will also give you a ‘backup’ card that you can keep in your luggage in case the primary card is stolen.
Don’t forget your VAT refund
Thailand, the United Kingdom and pretty much every country in the European Union offers VAT refunds for international shoppers. You become eligible for a VAT refund only when you spend a certain amount (say, €150) in a single store. After you bill, you need to ask for a VAT form, which you have to fill out and get stamped in-store. You can claim your refund at the airport in cash or get it transferred to your credit card. I’d recommend going to the airport early and getting it in cash so you can either exchange it for local currency or if you’re like me, use it to indulge in some duty-free shopping!
Keep your eyes on the prize
Modern e-commerce is designed to make you fall prey to temptation. Even if you’re only window shopping, the items that you were browsing through will pursue you doggedly, making appearances on every other website that you visit until you cave. While I don’t know how to make those damned ads stop appearing, I can tell you that it’s entirely possible to resist temptation by thinking about the fabulous holiday you can take tomorrow, instead of buying another dress (that you don’t need), today. Every time I was tempted to push the check-out button, I took a minute to google photos of my holiday destination and that really made a tremendous difference in boosting my self-control.
BONUS BLOG TIP: Don’t go into fucking debt for a holiday
The other day while driving to work, I heard a radio ad for a personal loan which was basically to the tune of – don’t have money for a family vacation, just borrow from us and have your dream holiday! This is nonsense. Borrowing should be done only for necessities, not for luxuries and holidays are most definitely luxuries. Personal loans carry crazy interest rates, so if you think borrowing can get you a few days away from the stress or whatever of your present situation, trust me when I tell you that you’ll come back home to far worse. Personal loans should be taken only in times of absolute emergencies and you wanting to eat cheese in Paris is not an emergency.