Holiday Planning

The Ultimate Guide To Budgeting And Spending Money When Travelling

The Ultimate Guide to budgeting and spending money while travelling

The Best Way To Travel Is With A Travel Plan And A Budget

Whether you’re travelling by air or land you will need some form of spending money no matter the destination.

When bringing spending money when you are on holiday it’s critical to consider safety and convenience.

Travelling for free using Air Miles points, credit card rewards or winning a free trip is awesome but you’ll still need spending money.

A simple road trip through Canada or the U.SA or an international flight across the country may start with frugal intentions but can get out of hand if you’re not careful.

Even a camping trip or day-trip to Niagara Falls, Wonderland, Toronto, Vancouver and so on will all come with extra expenses you need to budget spending money for.

Research Your Travel Destination

waiting at the airport

When my mum and dad were travelling to Canada from the UK they asked me how much spending money they would need.

They had never been to Canada before so they weren’t sure about costs so I gave them the run-down.

Even then they still made a trip to a local currency convertor shop to swap over some British money to Canadian.

In part, it was my fault because I threw in a couple of extra road-trips and tourist destinations that weren’t in the original plans.

We even took them to garage sales on the weekends that was not in the plans and dad bought a fishing rod and a few other bits and bobs. 

Plus, they practically lived at Tim Horton’s for coffee, tea, and Boston Cream donuts, so I can partially blame them too!

The same thing happened when we hosted our international students from Spain, Japan, and Germany since we were able to email each other before they arrived.

One of the number one questions they asked us was, “How much spending money they would need in Canada?” and for good reason. No one really should bring more spending money on holidays then they need to.

In fact, creating a spending budget before you head out for on holiday for any prolonged period of time you should have some idea of costs for the country you are visiting.

Cash Spending Money

Should you bring cash as spending money when travelling?

Yes, always bring cash in the currency of the country you are visiting and some from your country just in case you need to use the currency exchange for more. 

The thing you want to consider is that if you exchange your spending money at one exchange rate it could easily change the next day.

So what was cheap yesterday may cost you double the next or if you’re lucky it will cost you less.

It’s always a gamble although I remember when I was visiting Canada the exchange rate was a whopping $2.52.

So for every British pound, I got $2.52 Canadian.

Sweet deal but it’s not like that anymore but still it’s worth more which means your spending money will go further when travelling.

Also, consider that if you don’t take enough spending money or plan to exchange money in the country you are visiting you may pay more for the process. 

Alternatively can use your credit card almost everywhere you travel across the world however it really does depend on your travel destination and the exchange rate. 

I’m not a huge fan of travellers cheques where instead of carrying hard cash as spending money you carry it as a cheque.

If you do bring traveller’s cheques with you for spending money always keep a note of the serial numbers and other pertinent information with you and a copy at home.

At least when you get back or if there is someone at home you can contact to get in touch with your bank you at least have the numbers.

The pitfall of traveller’s cheques is when you are in a country in the middle of nowhere and a traveller’s cheque is like fire-starter.

Cash is and always will be KING

Today, even pre-paid credit cards are far more recognized and desired over the travellers cheque although almost all countries will accept your travellers cheque

You might even find that your bank allows you to take money from an ATM outside of Canada but you will pay international fees for doing so.

Travelling with our Toddler

airplane spending money

When we planned our holiday to England two years ago with a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler we decided to go with a stop-over to get a connecting flight.

Taking this route wasn’t cheaper, in fact, it cost us a bit more money but we were considering the overall experience for everyone involved.

The idea was that it gave our son a break from being on such a long flight if we flew straight into England non-stop.

Actually, we were travelling to a few destinations so it was important we didn’t bombard him with too much travel time on the airplane.

In the back of our minds, we were also thinking about the passengers because it’s not that much fun travelling with a screaming toddler for hours.

The twist in the story is that he loved it but what you don’t know before you book your travel tickets and what happens after is another story.

Turns out, we could have flown non-stop but now we know for next time although a trip to the UK from Canada is only about 6 hours. 

you will want to find out what the currency exchange costs will be when you use it BEFORE you go.

In some cases, you may find the exchange rate on your credit card when visiting out of the country is not much more or the same as it would be if you went to the bank. 

Spending Money At The Airport or Docking Ports

cruise ship spending money

If for example you are travelling and you have a stop-over or you’re stuck waiting for your flight at the airport you’ll need spending money.

At the airport, there isn’t much to do apart from spending money on food, drinks, liquor, cigarettes and souvenirs.

The same thing applies if you are on a cruise ship that stops at different ports where passengers can get off to sight-see.

You’ll need some spending money if you plan to experience what the country has to offer for the short time you are there.

I recall while we were in Iceland we did not go prepared with any Icelandic króna but luckily they accepted American and Canadian Money and credit cards.

This is why having cash, credit card, travellers cheques or a pre-paid credit card will come in handy.

Even though you may despise the exchange rate you may get on a credit card when travelling having a life-line is better than no spending money at all.

Road Trips and Spending Money

road trip in the mountains

Even when we would take long 8-hour road trips up north past Sudbury, Ontario we would stop frequently at rest stops for breaks.

This is when we would get gas, use the washroom and stretch our legs. 

As a frugal family, we always pack enough food and drinks to keep our travel budget low when on a road trip.

If you plan to go road tripping outside of Canada you will need to bring spending money in US Dollars as not all shops accept Canadian currency.

Travel Considerations And Your Spending Money

When budgeting for your holiday you’ll want to know how much spending money you will need to bring along with you.

If money was no issue you wouldn’t be reading this but for the average person, you will want a rough idea so I’ve got a few tips for you.

Let’s consider these situations.

Travel Budget

budget categories

You won’t really understand how much spending money you will need until you create a travel budget.

Once you know how much money you have for your entire get-away whether it’s a day at Wonderland or a one-week all-inclusive holiday at a resort or on a cruise you’ll need a budget.

From there once you have your budgeted amount for travel you can plan your holiday.

It will also help to balance out paying for your holiday and giving you an idea of how much spending money you will have left.

If you go on a holiday with a blind-eye for the money you’ll spend way too much and you’ll feel the financial strain when you get home.

For example, if you have $5000 to spend in your travel budget and the cost of travel insurance, plane tickets and resort costs are $4000 that leaves you both with $1000 of spending money.

Now, depending on where you are going that $1000 might not be worth that much.

Using a simple Currency Convertor you can see that if your plan was to travel to England from Canada you’d only have 587.34 Great British Pounds.

At the time of writing this post, the exchange rate was 1 GBP = 1.70.29 CAD1 CAD = 0.587340 GBP but that can change tomorrow.

So, always consider the costs of local currency when creating your travel budget.

That same $1000 if you were travelling from Canada to the United States of America would be worth $742.25 USD.

At the time of writing this post, the exchange rate between Canada and the USA was1 USD = 1.34724 CAD1 CAD = 0.742256 USD


hotel travel resort

We spent almost three weeks on an all-inclusive 5-star resort in Spain and all food and drinks were covered, but that’s about it.

If you wanted your clothes laundered you had to pay for it.

If you wanted toys for your kids to play in the pools or on the beach, you had to pay for it.

If you wanted snacks outside of the buffet times, you had to pay for it.

Even if you plan trips outside of the resort with a travel guide, this will cost you money.

Mrs. CBB recalls a trip to the Dominican Republic that was all-inclusive however she still had to pay for a tour guide trip to see the lands.

She also paid to get her hair braided and to have fresh coconuts on the beach which is quite common with destination all-inclusive beach resorts.

Even in Spain we had women walking up and down the beach selling melon slices and at night men selling souveniors along the path-way of the beach.

Just because you think you are going to an all-inclusive resort or travel destination doesn’t mean you won’t need spending money.


Travel Itinerary

travel intinerary

What are your plans when on holiday or your road trip?

Do you plan to participate in any overseas adventures or day trips with a tour guide that is not part of your travel package?

You’ll pay for that too.

Tips for travelling with your Spending Money

Carrying money when you are travelling is great but you must protect yourself and keep cash handy at the same time.

I’ve travelled to many places all over the world and done my online travel research by reading other’s experiences so I’ve learned what to do and what not to do.

If you are a first-time traveller whether by land or air you’ll want to secure the spending money you are bringing with you at all times.

Below are the most useful tips I’ve used and that I’d recommend to anyone who sets off on holidays whether it be camping, road trips, airplane or boat travel.

It’s better to be safe, then sorry.

Split Spending Money Up

There is a reason why you must split your spending money up and we did this on our recent trip.

In fact, I’ve always done this everywhere I’ve travelled for two reasons, haggling and safety.

Almost all the countries I’ve ever visited invited haggling prices especially when there was no price displayed.

If sellers see you have lots of spending money because you pay with large denominations the haggling might not go so well.

For safety reasons, in the event, you are mugged or someone tries to steal your wallet/purse if you store all of your spending money and credit cards in one spot you’ve lost them all.

If you divide your cash and credit cards or other spending money currencies into different spots at least you will have some form of money to pay for things.

The last thing you’ll want is to be stuck on a road trip or in another country with no money trying to call home for someone to wire you cash.

Bring smaller denominations of local currency

Always exchange your spending money for travelling into small bills so you have money for tipping and bartering.

Before we would leave our resort hotel room we would plan our spending money for the day in the local currency.

In one pocket we would carry coins and the other small bills and under our clothing, in secure zippered spots, we’d carry larger bills.

You don’t want to be announcing to everyone how much spending money you have if you don’t need to.

Keep Spending Money On Your Body

You can now buy clothing with money zippers or inside pockets where you can stash your spending money when you are travelling.

It also helps to keep it safe from falling out if you are on a road trip or venturing into the forest or bumpy places where roadways aren’t paved or there are no sidewalks.

Carry A Fake Wallet

I lost my wallet once while I was travelling and it wasn’t because it fell out of my back pocket either.

I made the mistake once and never again because I put myself in a vulnerable situation.

Luckily my girlfriend at the time had spending money with her and we were able to continue on our holiday without too much downtime.

They didn’t get any credit cards or identification but they got my spending money.

In the event, you plan to venture off your all-inclusive resort or are travelling a country where crime rates are high or you’re worried about being mugged always bring a dummy wallet.

Whether you are male or female simply buy a cheap wallet from Value Village and put some fake money, business cards or even coupons inside to make it seem legit.

If you are mugged or someone tries to pick-pocket your pants or purse they can steal the fake wallet rather then get your real cash.

This is why we suggest always keeping your spending money on your body rather than in a purse or backpack.

Do Your Research

Before you buy your plane tickets or even book time off from work do some research for your planned trip whether it be a short weekend road trip, a quick trip to Vegas or a long flight overseas. 

Leaving armed with knowledge and plans is the best way to ensure your spending money stays safe and you know how much to bring along with you.

Discussion: Have you ever been on a trip and stuck with little to no spending money? How did you handle the situation?

Leave me a comment below as I love reading your feedback and opinions.

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