Before I share the fun stuff about our trip, I thought I’d share some of the financial lessons we learned on the trip. We planned ahead, and we did a lot of things right. But we also made some mistakes.
If you have a smartphone, turn off data roaming.
Luckily, I knew about this one before we left. I brought my iPhone with us to Europe, but I left it on airplane mode the entire time we were there. If I had left data roaming on, my phone’s automatic updates would have racked up hundreds of dollars in overseas roaming charges.
Fortunately, I still had access to wi-fi, so I could connect my phone to the hotel wi-fi to connect to the Internet for free. This was a lifesaver when we needed directions or information. We were also able to use the Skype app to make calls home basically for free. This was a huge moneysaver since calling cards are expensive and hotel phone fees are astronomical.
Don’t touch the hotel phone.
I wish I’d read the fine print on the card next to our hotel phone as soon as we got to the room. When we arrived in London, I realized that I’d forgotten to notify my credit card company that we’d be traveling abroad. We planned to use the Capital
One card for most of our purchases over there to avoid overseas transaction fees, so the last thing I wanted was for the card to be shut off for suspicious activity. I used the hotel phone to call Capital One collect. Capital One agreed to accept all long distance charges for the call. The hotel still charged us around 12USD just for using their phone. Ugh.
When I finally looked at the fee card, I saw that the hotel even charges fees for local calls. This was the case in all three of the hotels we stayed in. To be safe, just avoid the hotel phones all together.
Over-overestimate for food costs.
I pride myself on overestimating my budget most of the time. I like to build some cushion into the budget by assuming things will cost more than they do. Usually I’m pleasantly surprised to discover we’ve spent much less than we planned.
When we left for Europe, pretty much everything but food was paid for. I estimated $100 a day for us to eat, a number that I thought was pretty high based on our past experience, even considering the money we’d lose in the conversion. We typically spend very little for food on vacation. In this case, I was wrong, and we ended up going overbudget. It wasn’t by an astronomical amount, and it wasn’t a big deal because we’d built extra into the budget on top of my estimates.
Think hard before buying tourist passes.
A few months ago, I struggled with whether we should purchase London Passes for our trip. The London Pass offers admission to a ton of tourist attractions in London for one flat fee. The cost of the pass is much lower than the combined admission fees of all the attractions, but the catch is that it’s impossible to see everything in just a few days. I added up the cost of all the attractions we thought we’d see and compared it with the cost of the pass. It seemed like it would work out to be a good deal, so I went for it.
What I didn’t plan for was my pregnancy. Because I was tired and a feeling sick some days, we ended up seeing a lot less than we planned. In the end, we lost about 50USD on the passes. Blerg.
On the other hand, we bought Paris museum passes for 32 euros each and ended up getting 75 euros in admission out of each of them. Package deals aren’t always a bad deal, but you really have to do the math.
Despite these few hiccups, we stuck to the budget pretty well, especially considering how much we were able to do and see over there. If you’re planning a trip overseas, I hope you can learn from our mistakes to make your experience even more successful.