How do you do cheap travel overseas?

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I have mentioned before that I am treading water in a sea of debt and that is no joke. Most of my debt is due to an addiction. Travel. I love to travel! I just can’t help myself when I see a good travel deal.

I try to justify it in my brain with the thought “You got a really good deal though” even though I really should be putting all my money towards debt. On my behalf I have been doing pretty good as I have only fallen off the turnip truck a few times. (If this phrase is unfamiliar to you I issue the following warning – I grew up in the South where this is said all the time. I said this phrase in the NorthEast last week and was met with blank stares.)

Usually my travel addiction is limited to U.S. locations as the both cheapest and easiest option for me. However, every now and then I get the itch to go back overseas. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I have a lot of airline miles with British Airways that are set to expire in March. I can get a free ticket to London. But I’d have to pay for everything else.

Now, a smart person would say “If I can’t afford the ‘everything else’ then I will just lose the free flight because it’s not worth it.” But a chica with issues like me says “Dude, it’s a free flight to London! And I love London. ” See how I get myself into trouble?

The real issue here is the current state of the exchange rate. Oy. Looking at XE.com today. Ouch. It will cost a fortune to go to London or Europe!

I seriously doubt that the exchange rate will turn to my favor before I find myself overseas, so that means I have about 7 months to figure out how I can use my free plane ticket without needing to rob a bank. (that was a joke – it’s hard to convey sarcasm over the internet. we need a special font for it.)

After reading a lot lately about people getting to their destination overseas and their checked luggage not showing up I know for certain that I will not be checking anything. And I do not want to have a lot of luggage anyways as I usually take a lot of trains when overseas. So, since peanut butter is a banned item I cannot pack that to save on food like I did last time.

I am thinking I should make a list of what I will need to pay for in order of most expense and work my way down the list so that I will have the more expensive things covered first. This way if I don’t get everything covered on the list the expensive stuff will be taken care of. I’m not sure where I want to go yet, so it will be sort of general. (estimating high here…I hope) Here is what I imagine those expenses to be and a rough estimate:

  1. Hotels – let’s say 7 nights at $150 = $1050
  2. Food – let’s say around $850
  3. Transportation/Rail pass/ Ferry pass (Ireland?) – at least $500
  4. Emergency money (in case get sick/injured while there) – at least $500
  5. Misc. activities – around $300
  6. Misc. shopping – around $200
  7. Airport parking -around $125

If anyone sees anything I may have left off, please let me know as I want to make sure I account for everything. Granted, I have a few months, but still.

For the hotel, I think I will focus on trying to get some free stay with a hotel rewards program. I have a Marriott, Hilton and Holiday Inn rewards account. All of them have some points. I can also earn Hilton Honors points through MyPoints. And my American Express Rewards program offers points for all three. E-Rewards also offers up Hilton Honors points.

For food, the cheapest option may be to go to a grocery store once I get where ever it is that I end up going. The problem will be how to make what I get. You can make a lot of stuff in coffee pots, but if I remember correctly there are not coffee pots in the hotel rooms overseas. At least not the ones I stayed in. Sandwiches may be the only way to go here. Last time I was in London I did really well with finding local places to eat away from tourist areas, but the exchange rate kills that savings.

I don’t know how I can save on any of the other costs. Sure, I don’t have to shop or do a lot of activities that cost money. And I probably won’t but I like to plan with a bit of a cushion.

Something else to consider when traveling abroad are the currency exchange fees that credit card companies charge you. I know that Capital One does not do this. When I was in Ireland the hotel I was at converted charges to dollars instead of Euros and charged for it and then my credit card company charged me too!

Wow, trying to plan overseas travel on the cheap is difficult! If you have traveled overseas recently and were able to do it inexpensively feel free to give me some tips! I have a subscription to Budget Travel magazine and plan on looking through the latest issue of it for some pointers. If I find anything great I will point it out.

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