Save Money on Overseas Trips By Being Prepared

Recently we took at look at how you could save money on road trips — but what about those who have bigger plans this summer? International travel can be exciting but it can also get very expensive if you’re not careful. When you’re booking your big getaway keep these things in mind, because when it comes to traveling abroad planning ahead can really pay off.

Order your passport in advance

When heading outside of the United States the first thing you’ll need is a passport. In most cases this will cost you about $110. However, if you procrastinate and wait until the last minute, you could spend significantly more in order to get your documents in time for your trip. According to the State Department the current rate for expedited service (via the mail or in person) is an extra $60. On top of that they recommend paying for overnight shipping, which is another $20.66.

Even if you’re passport is good for another few months you may want to double check the policies of the country you’ll be visiting. Some may require U.S. passport holders to have at least three months of validity left on their passport in order to enter — some even more. Don’t end up overspending for a renewal or, worse yet, getting denied entry into the country because you didn’t do your homework.

Cash or credit?

There are many variables that will dictate whether you’re better off purchasing foreign currency before your trip, waiting until you get there, or just using your card for everything. The first factor will be what country it is that you’ll be visiting and if credit cards are as ubiquitous in their society as they are here. This may not be the case in certain parts of the world. If you do need cash it’s often better to purchase some through your bank or at another local establishment rather than to try to exchange currency at the airport. That being said you may be able to just bring a small amount with you to get you started and then use ATMs in your destination country that typically offer more favorable exchange rates.

Assuming credit cards are accepted at most places in the area you’re headed to, then you’ll want to look into getting a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees. If that’s not an option for you then you should at least know the rules of your cards so that you can do your best to avoid fees. For example a debit card might charge a flat fee of $5 per withdrawal at a foreign ATM, while a credit card may tack on a 3% fee to everything you buy. Depending on what you plan on purchasing it may make more sense to simply make a large ATM withdrawal instead of paying individual transaction fees.

Look into cell phone roaming plans

Today many smartphones will work just fine overseas but they will cost you an arm and a leg if you’re not proactive. Additionally it’s not just phone calls that are expensive but SMS messages and cellular data can quickly add up as well. Some providers like T-Mobile offer customers free international roaming as a perk in their plan but be sure to read the terms and conditions to see if you qualify. Other services may allow you to add a one-time package that will include an allotment of international data, texts, and discounted voice minutes. Alternatively you may be able to purchase a prepaid SIM card once you’re at your destination but be advised that can be complicated and might not work with every phone.

No matter how many times you’ve traveled abroad there’s always more to see and new things to learn. That’s why it’s important to go beyond researching the sights you want to see and look into the logistics and details associated with visiting a particular country. By being informed and planning ahead you’ll not only be able to facilitate a smoother trip but also save some money in the process.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

Other Articles by Jonathan Dyer

Nitra Latest FinTech to Join Visa's Fast Track Program

A spending insights platform built for healthcare professionals is getting a big boost by joining up with a major card company. This week, Nitra announced that it was the latest startup to join Visa's Fast Track program. As a result, the company will now have access to Visa's global payment network, VisaNet Nitra is a FinTech offering spending management tools for private practice physicians. With the platform, clients can issue...

Stripe Raises $6.5 Billion, Now Valued at $50 Billion 

FinTech giant Stripe has just closed a massive funding round, but is once again cutting its valuation. The online payments company has announced that it's just raised $6.5 billion. The Series I included participation from returning investors Andreessen Horowitz, Baillie Gifford, Founders Fund, General Catalyst, MSD Partners, and Thrive Capital, while new investors GIC, Goldman Sachs Asset and Wealth Management, and Temasek also joined. Goldman Sachs served as sole placement...

Chase Reveals Q2 2023 5% Bonus Categories for Freedom Cards

One of the biggest perks of the popular Chase Freedom Flex card (and its predecessor the Chase Freedom card) is the ability to earn 5% cashback on categories that rotate each quarter. Currently, these categories include grocery stores, fitness clubs and gym memberships, and purchases at Target. Now, with the first quarter of the year drawing to an end, Chase has revealed its Q2 2023 bonus categories. From April 1st...