Travel tips for the holidays
’Nimi Akinkugbe([email protected])
The holidays are almost upon us. Whether you are travelling abroad or staying closer to home, here are some travel tips to help you save and manage your holiday money.
Make a travel budget
Have you planned for this holiday or are you just going to dip into your savings and head off no matter the cost? How much can you really afford to spend? Set an overall spending limit and then determine where it can take you; try to stick to it. There is so much involved — accommodation, transport fares, food, shopping, entertainment, gifts, telephone calls, excursions, and so on.
You really ought to have booked long before now to get the best deals. Fares can vary considerably depending on the time, day or month of travel. The long school vacation attracts very steep fares as families across the world embark on their summer holidays. If you are on a tight budget, avoiding weekend travel often results in huge savings; mid-week travel is much cheaper than the weekend.
If you travel off-season, you are bound to get better deals than if you go at Christmas time or during school holidays. Not only will fares be much cheaper and air mile tickets readily available, but destinations will also be less crowded. Indeed, now is a good time to book your Christmas travel!
Must you fly direct?
It is so much more convenient to fly directly to your destination, but if you have time to spare, there are significant savings in considering a flight with a stop-over or two. Some passengers have passed through Dubai from Nigeria, or through Ethiopia on excellent Ethiopian Airlines to get to Europe and the Americas at very decent fares and with good service.
Inform your bank or credit card company of your travel plans
Don’t forget to inform your bank or credit card provider if you are travelling abroad. If they see unusual transactions from a foreign land, to secure your account from fraud, they may block your card. It is also best to take along more than one card, in case you experience some problems with one of them; sadly this is still a common occurrence with some Nigerian debit and credit cards. Even though we like to be cashless, it always pays to have some cash on you, just in case the card is declined for whatever reason.
Always keep your bank’s international customer service number handy as well as an individual name; you might need it. There is nothing worse than being stranded without money in a foreign land.
Separate your money
Don’t keep all of your cash and cards in the same place in case you are a victim of theft. You might have a card in your wallet but have another card and cash in a separate bag, just in case.
Cash is king. If you lose your wallet, your cards are declined, or the ATM has run out of money, you will be so glad that you had some cash on you. But, avoid having too much cash on you, as it may not be covered by your travel insurance if it’s lost or stolen.
Avoid borrowing to go on holiday
There is so much pressure to keep up appearances; children in school want to show their friends that they travelled “abroad” and with “everyone else” travelling, you just cannot “afford” to stay at home. Some will even go as far as borrowing to finance an expensive holiday. Avoid this unless there is the absolute certainty of an impending inflow of funds or a compelling reason to do so.
Remember that your focus should be on your goals and not on other peoples’ goals; we don’t really know “the Jones” story but they are usually broke and trying to keep up with you!
Buy travel insurance
A medical emergency can literally wipe out your savings. Always take out travel insurance. For a small premium, protect yourself and your family should one of you fall ill or have an accident during your travels. This sounds obvious but so many people just don’t bother to purchase travel insurance, and end up losing a lot of money when things go wrong; this could range from cancelled flights, lost money, baggage or getting ill far from home.
Make transport arrangements
You are at your most vulnerable when you first arrive at a new destination. That first airport taxi ride from the airport may be one of your most expensive, so do plan ahead. Try to research the lower-cost alternatives including train, coach, etc. If you are staying in a fairly decent hotel, they will usually have a free shuttle service; remember to ask about this when you are making your booking. It makes you feel safe as well particularly if you are travelling alone.
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It’s best to figure all of this out before your trip; when you arrive tired and with tons of luggage, the last thing you need is to be ripped off by an unscrupulous driver or enter an unauthorised vehicle and put yourself in an uncertain situation when you’re far from home.
Secure your valuables
Protect valuable documents. If you have ever lost your passport when you are travelling, you will know that it is a horrid experience. You can be completely stranded and insecure; identity is critical. Having most of your important documents and photos backed up is essential. Keep both digital and physical photocopies of your passport, visas, driving licence, birth certificate, health insurance card, and important phone numbers on you, just in case.
Avoid carrying very expensive items including jewelry when you travel particularly if you cannot afford to lose them either financially or emotionally. Make use of the hotel safe and put valuables away.
Over the last few years, there has been so much innovation in holiday rentals. Local residents can rent out their rooms, even entire apartments. “AirBnB”, for example, has transformed accommodation options. Many travellers actually find this experience more rewarding as it is usually more spacious and cheaper than hotel accommodation.
Be conscious of the exchange rate
Doing a little research on the local exchange rate against your home currency can make a huge difference. Quickly do your mental arithmetic before you make a purchase; it helps you make more efficient purchase decisions.
Roaming can cost you
How much could a few texts, a few email checks, social media updates and downloads on the go possibly cost per day? A lot! Purchase an international roaming plan that will cover your travels as roaming charges can result in a staggering telephone bill when you return home.
They are a source of huge expense when you travel and must check emails and download on the go; don’t forget to keep data switched off until you need it. Be sure of what you will be paying both for making and receiving calls. Pay your bills in advance so that you don’t get cut off whilst you are away.
Switching to a local sim card as soon as you arrive at your destination is a good idea; it is always cheaper to make local calls. Make sure that your loved ones colleagues and key contacts have the number, so that you don’t miss important calls.
Pay for a good Internet package unless you will be in a connected environment most of the time.
Secure your finances
Be careful when it comes to making online transfers or dealing with sensitive transactions in public places, as many hotspots are not at all secure. If you must use them in an airport in transit for example, be sure to log out completely to protect your self from identity fraud.
What is the essence of a vacation?
Remember the essence of a vacation; it is really about spending quality time with loved ones, and having time to rest and rejuvenate. This may just be the time to simply stay at home, a time to revisit your passions, hobbies, pastimes, and sports.
A vacation need not be that expensive. Don’t attempt to pay for what you cannot afford. You do not have to travel abroad; rediscover your own environment by visiting places close to home with your children. Have you visited Idanre Hills in Ondo State, the Ogbunike Cave in Anambra State, Obudu Ranch Resort in Cross River State, Yankari Game Reserve in Bauchi State or Abraka Turf Club in Delta State? Let us get our children to know more about our beautiful country. If we don’t visit our heritage sites, we cannot expect foreigners and tourists to visit, spend valuable foreign exchange and create jobs.
With careful planning, you can find a balance between having an enjoyable vacation without breaking the bank.
Have a great holiday!
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