Managing money on the road

One of the biggest challenges travellers face when planning a trip is budgeting. With travel styles endlessly varying, it can be difficult to determine how much money you’ll need for your trip. In order to shed some light on what a budget multi-country european trip looks like financially, I put together this guide outlining what my expenses have been, how much I spend in the different categories and how I track and make sure I won’t run out of money on the road.

For my trip I saved $10,000 Canadian, this was to take me through three months of travel and breaks down to roughly $100 a day. Initially I had budgeted $60 per day, but this turned out to be a bit unrealistic where the exchange rates were 1.5 to 2x my Canadian dollar (I’m looking at you London.) I didn’t just magically know to budget $100, I used this handy tool: Budgetyourtrip. A great site where you can enter your destination city your style of travel and it will give you a rough estimate of how much you need per day.

In order to keep track of my spending on the road I downloaded the Trail wallet app. This has proven to be absolutely invaluable, I don’t know where I would be without it! Every time I spend money, book a hostel or buy a pack of gum, I input the expense in the app and it automatically converts it to canadian currency using the exchange rates of that day. Then I place it into one of the 6 categories: transport, accommodation, food, entertainment, miscellaneous, you can even write notes to help you remember what you spent money on. This takes only 30 seconds to do and immediately appraises me of my daily spending and my overall trip expenses. Having this accurate breakdown of the numbers helps keep me on budget and prevent overspending. Plus, the avatar gets a bit cheeky if you go over budget.

20160630080208 (1)Days on road: 50

Countries: 4

Cities: 10

Money spent: $5,776.55

Daily Average: $115.33

As you can see, I am actually over my daily average by $15.33. I’m not seriously concerned by this, as the number jumps up when I input a large expense such as $350 for 10 days upcoming accommodation and it slowly reduces as those days pass. The lion’s share of expenses always fall into these three categories: food, accommodation, and transportation. Bearing this in mind, I can keep costs down if I am careful and minimize spending on non-essentials like souvenirs, eating out, entertainment, and my daily luxury (which I am not willing to give up,) coffee.

So, 50 days into my 90 day trip and I have spent:

Accommodation: $1,529.12

Food: $1,659.71

Transport: $1,674.10

I also downloaded the Mint: Money manager app. I had really high hopes for this app! I’ve heard so much about it from other travellers and my most money savvy friends, but I experienced too much difficulty in connecting it to my accounts and later discovered this was because my bank doesn’t play nice with third party applications. Despite this, I don’t feel I am missing out by not having it, with Trail Wallet keeping track of all expenses including cash purchases I am able to cross reference the spending with my bank app for my phone for credit transactions.

So how do I actually access my money? Do I carry cards, travellers cheques, cash? The answer always is, a bit of both (except for travellers cheques, that’s almost obsolete.) I had to do a fair bit of research, according to most Canadian Banks, Foreign Transaction Fees are all the rage. I can see why, with all the spending a traveller does on their credit card can easily add up to $400 a year in Bank fees. Why would I give them all my hard earned pennies when $400 is a lot of lattes in my hand. Of course they know this, so I had to dig deep to find a credit card that wouldn’t charge me for using my card overseas. For you lucky Americans, there is quite a few options available to you, that even come with other incentives and benefits. For us Canadians, there are two. JP Morgan Chase Marriott Card, which build points towards hotel stays, and a new contender on the block, the Rogers Bank Mastercard. New to the scene, the Rogers Bank boasted no foreign transaction fees, welcome bonuses, a limit of $4000, and cash back incentives including 4% on foreign transactions! I can even use the cash back to pay my rogers bills. There are travel hackers out there with crazy credit card skills, racking up points, cancelling cards getting free hotel stays, but that’s a level of travel expertise that frankly astounds me. Check out how they do it here. The cherry on top, is that I can take out cash at any ATM and not be charged additional fees.

I’m actually a little proud of myself, I’m not the most money savvy individual, I barely make it through tax season without crying. But I did the research, found a credit card that would suit my needs, earn a little cash back, have access to cash when needed, but not have to carry around a Pirate’s booty of euros and pounds in cash just to avoid fees. I use my banking app to pay off my credit card on time to avoid interest. It’s all very neat and tidy and I wouldn’t have been able to do all this without my phone, I love my phone. I don’t know what I would do if it went missing, this little rectangle is my life line. Please Universe, never take it from me.

So there we go! Forty Days of travel left, so far on budget. Let’s see how the next month turns out, before I go back to the land of take all my money (still looking at you London.)