Overseas vacation on a budget? Why the heck not? We work hard. Damn hard. In fact, Americans are amongst the hardest working and industrious people on the planet. This actually sounds more impressive than it is. In fact, it’s entirely possible that we’re all working a little too hard.
We work longer hours and do more overtime than pretty much anyone else in the developed world. As inflation pushes up the cost of living, many big companies repress worker wages to protect their profit margins. Meaning that we have to work longer to make up the shortfall.
The US is the only country without paid parental leave benefits. And the only industrialized nation in the world not to offer parental leave as a mandatory option for new parents.
With all this in mind… It’s no surprise that many of us find ourselves needing a vacation. As we enjoy the fair weather and spirit of optimism that’s prevalent in the air as spring slowly bleeds into summer, our thoughts inevitably turn to packing a bag and getting away from it all with our spouses and kids.
But unfortunately, a lot of Americans won’t be considering international travel for their summer vacation.
Indeed 64% of Americans have never left the US and do not have a passport.
There are many reasons for this. America is such a vast and culturally diverse country that it’s easy to assume that you can get everything you could possibly want from vacationing within the US. After all, in California alone, you can swim and sunbathe then ski in the snowy mountains in the same day.
But while the US certainly has a whole lot to offer, there are many reasons why vacation hungry parents should consider an overseas vacation.
Overseas Vacation on a Budget
How International Travel Benefits Your Family
Sure, the US has plenty of places to sun yourself, kick back with a delicious drink, enjoy fine foods and generally enjoy your time out of work, but international travel has some definite benefits for you and your whole family.
Kids, in particular, benefit hugely from international travel and in many ways, it is the ultimate education. In an era where the sum total of all the world’s knowledge is available to them through a little glass rectangle in their pockets, it’s easy for them to become blase. But it’s one thing to see the Taj Mahal or the leaning tower of Piza on a smartphone screen and quite another to see them in person.
Overseas travel is an immersive and multisensory experience that engages kids’ cognitive faculties in ways that even the best teachers may struggle to simulate. As they experience new sights and sounds, new tastes and smells their senses are stimulated and previously unused corners of their brains come alive.
All kids learn in different ways, but typically they have an aptitude either for visual learning (learning by seeing), auditory learning (learning by following verbal instructions) and kinesthetic learning (learning by doing), and travel appeals to all of these learning styles.
They will improve their language skills as they engage with locals in their own native tongue, math skills as they calculate the dollar value of the products on sale all around them, as well as creative problem-solving skills as they navigate day to day life so far outside of their comfort zones.
But while you may not need to be sold on the benefits of traveling overseas, you may not have given the idea the consideration it deserves because you consider it needlessly expensive.
The truth, however, is that traveling overseas can be surprisingly affordable, even when compared to a domestic vacation. It’s merely a matter of being well prepared and making prudent financial decisions both before you set off and while you’re away.
Flights and Accommodation
Of course, your most significant areas of expense will be your flights and be keeping a roof over your heads while you’re away. There was a time when vacationers were beholden to travel agents who would add a surcharge to flight costs to cover their overheads. In the digital age, however, families can save a fortune by booking direct online or by using price comparison sites.
So long as you’re prepared to be flexible, you can save a small fortune on your flights when you do your homework. For example, it’s not uncommon for airlines to jack up their prices based on the cookies in your browser. If it looks as though tickets for a particular flight are of interest, they may use this as an excuse to bump up the price.
This is why you should always browse for tickets in your browser’s incognito mode.
You can usually save a small fortune by booking far in advance. If you are prepared to book your flight 4-6 months before traveling, you will often get great deals on your overseas vacation. You can also make substantial savings by flying out on days where demand is typically low. Flying midweek or on Sundays as opposed to a Friday is usually much cheaper.
Accommodation costs can also be reduced significantly if you can afford to be flexible. While a hotel may be appealing and comforting, you can usually find accommodation at a fraction of the cost thanks to the advent of the sharing economy.
The advent of services like Airbnb has enabled families to cut the cost of an overseas vacation considerably while still enjoying a good quality of location in a desirable and family friendly area. Just look at how much you could save around the world with this hotel / AirBnB comparison. On average, families paid 50% more for hotel accommodation than for an Airbnb.
Saving on Currency
Needless to say, if you’re on a budget, you need to be thrifty when you make choices about where you eat, drink and shop. But did you know that you can save money by thinking hard about how you spend as well as what you spend?
For example, you may be led to believe that it’s financially prudent to get all of your dollars exchanged for your destination’s currency before flying out but this actually may not be the case.
A lot of the time, paying via credit card offers preferable rates and can help to insulate vacationers from the fluctuations of capricious exchange rates. To redress this balance, some credit card companies charge outrageous fees for using your credit card overseas, but you can still be a winner if you use a credit card abroad that has no foreign transaction fees.
Aside from better rates and zero fees you may also enjoy perks like air miles or discounted hotel accommodation, especially if you’re a frequent flier.
Being Smart with Your Smartphone
It’s likely that you’ll still want to use your smartphone while on your overseas vacation, but before you fly out, make sure that you know what charges (if any) your network provider will subject you to.
In some cases, you may be charged for roaming data charges that you will likely incur as long as your phone is switched on whether you’re actively using it or not. Although roaming data charges have been cut in 31 countries, there’s still a chance that you could return to an unpleasant phone bill if you’re not smart with your smartphone.
Keep your phone switched off while you’re out and about and switch it back on when in cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels or other communal areas with free Wifi.
Eat Like a Local
Needless to say, you will need to eat every day, and while the allure of familiar brands can be appealing in foreign climes, you will get much better value for money (not to mention gaining a better understanding of the local culture) when you eat like a local.
Eating local dishes and delicacies tends not only to be cheaper than turning to familiar franchises like McDonald’s Pizza Hut or Starbucks, but it’s likely to be much better for the environment and the local economy, too!
Most local restaurants and eateries will use locally sourced produce which has a much smaller carbon footprint than foods that have been sourced and imported from overseas. They will have been grown by local farmers who will benefit from your patronage.
Do Free Stuff… There’s Probably a Lot of It
Although you may want to do little more than relax and enjoy the sunshine, good food, and a cool drink under the sun, the rest of your family will likely want to stay active and see the local sights. But this doesn’t mean that you have to pay a fortune for flashy tourist attractions.
Many of the sights and sounds your destination has to offer can be enjoyed for free. Visiting museums and galleries is usually free (although it’s generally good form to make a voluntary contribution to their upkeep). If you’re staying in a hotel with a pool, remember that you’re paying for that privilege so be sure to use it every day.
With just a little forward planning and a whole lot of common sense, an overseas vacation can be as affordable as it is edifying.