Budgeting for
international travel

You can travel internationally for leisure, recreation, business, or visits with family and friends. The amazing life experiences that come with travel have a price tag to consider though. Budgeting for international travel means addressing the primary expenses related to lodging, meals, and voyage or airfare. It also involves planning for other common travel expenses, including:

  • The proper luggage and travel accessories
  • Government documents, such as passports and travel visas
  • Parking fees and in-country transportation
  • Entry fees to tourist attractions and museums
  • Spa visits and recreation
  • Entertainment, tours, and excursions
  • Souvenirs and shopping
  • Fees for making calls, texting, or checking e-mail
  • Laundry services or luggage storage costs

No one likes to think about emergencies, but it’s smart to have a plan in case an emergency occurs during your travels. Kristen Addis from Be My Travel Muse suggests, “having a rainy day fund in case anything goes wrong or something gets stolen. Even little things like replacing shampoo and soap on the road can add up quickly!” Your emergency travel fund should be in cash or travelers’ checks. The fund should be held in a safe place, in the event your credit cards are stolen. We having one on your person and one safely hidden in your hotel room. Though travelers’ checks are not accepted by all merchants, they can be a good emergency backup when a wallet is lost or stolen. Prepare for a health emergency by contacting your insurance company and discuss if you will have coverage outside of your home country.

Taking a list of your credit card company phone numbers along on your trip is another good idea, since cards can be compromised during travel. Before leaving on your journey, contact your credit card provider to share your itinerary. That way your card won’t be frozen by a fraud alert when it is suddenly used overseas.

It can be helpful to know the location of the U.S. embassy in the country you are visiting. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service that allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Enrollment will help the embassy contact you in the event of a natural disaster, political unrest, or a family emergency.

Uncover Hidden Fees in Your Itinerary

If you are not aware of a fee, it’s hard to include it in your travel budget. Preparing financially for an international trip means learning all you can about the expenses that may come along with the adventure. It’s important to remember that even all-inclusive resorts and tours often have additional costs – from gratuities to alcohol. To avoid unnecessary or hidden travel fees, be a knowledgeable traveler. For example, ask your hotel if it charges for Internet access, beach chairs, or fitness center use. If possible, any applicable charges should be estimated into your budget.

A fee you may forget to incorporate is the one for your passport or travel visa. These government documents are critical to going abroad. If you plan ahead and have the time to dedicate to the process, passports can be ordered through specific U.S. post office locations. Keep in mind, even with expedited government services you could be waiting up to ten weeks to receive your passport.

Sometimes subscribing to last minute airfares can connect you to an international deal that is too good to pass up. However, if you don’t have a passport ready to go, you may need the help of a passport expeditor to make the trip. You may also turn to specialized passport or visa services in the event of emergency travel. PassportsandVisas.com is an expeditor service, offering an alternative to traditional passport processing, with a variety of pricing options. So you get your passport or visa quickly, sometimes in one day! A registered expediting service can deliver assistance if you are travelling due to an unexpected situation, need a passport name change, lose your document, or suddenly realize your book needs pages. Our service is also for those who simply want to skip the waits, worries, and lines often associated with using conventional avenues to obtain a new passport or visa. Our process includes filling out an online application and submitting the proper forms, while receiving personalized service from an account manager. In addition to applying for a valid passport.

here are a few other common
travel-related fees to consider:

Currency exchange rates

You’ll need local currency overseas. Your bank can provide some cash before your trip, but at your destination, finding an ATM could be a smart financial move. Simply pull local currency out of the ATM using a debit card to receive a fair exchange rate. By using an international ATM that’s affiliated with your bank at home, you may be able to avoid some fees. If you do decide to directly exchange currency, keep in mind that international banks usually offer better rates than hotels, airports, and currency-exchange businesses.

Travel Insurance

Before purchasing travel insurance, check to see if the credit card you plan to buy your airline ticket with includes coverage in the amount you need. This type of insurance can cover you in relation to trip cancellation, accidents, or baggage losses. Many experienced travelers view travel insurance as essential.

Credit card transactions

A credit card that is free of foreign transaction fees is often a benefit overseas. A quick call to your credit card company will tell you if you can expect foreign transaction fees and how they are computed. If your credit card does have these fees, you may want to limit your international card purchases. Also when checking your accounts overseas, you will need to have a secure wireless network.

Shopping concerns

Merchants in some countries may automatically convert your payment to U.S. dollars, which could add to the total cost of the transaction. When purchasing a product, you can request that the transaction be processed according to the country’s local currency.

Exit and Entry Fees

Jessica on a Journey warns travelers that, “Another fee that many people may not realize is the exit and entry fees associated with certain countries, especially in Latin America.” Researching these costs beforehand can help you budget more effectively.


Laura Longwell of Travel Addicts has realized that many “travelers always seem to be surprised by taxes.” Her husband, Lance, says that travelers shouldn’t be surprised when, “the government wants to take a bite out of your wallet, whether it is a room tax on a hotel, a departure tax, or a visa tax.”


That dream destination on the other side of the globe may require immunizations in the weeks before you take off. Check with your doctor or visit the CDC’s travel health site for information.


Research the tipping etiquette for the country you plan to visit. Then you can budget for correctly tipping servers, taxi drivers, hotel staff, tour guides, and other providers. Be prepared to tip in local currency.

Baggage and Airline Fees

Be aware of airline fee policies when you're booking your flights, which may be applied in areas from baggage to seat selection. Bags that are overweight are costly for the international traveler, and buying heavy souvenirs could lead to extra luggage fees as you travel home.

By learning more about the fees and unexpected costs associated with international travel, you can develop a more accurate travel budget.

Don't let hidden travel expenses add up to an unpleasant surprise.

Lower the Cost of the Travel Experience

Booking an early morning flight or using reward points to get a hotel room are strategies that most people already use. There are additional steps to reduce the costs of international travel, while still enjoying one-of-a-kind experiences. For example, when it comes to transportation costs, you can begin by reviewing airport parking fees. Before leaving, you can book rail tickets online, in advance, from official sites rather than third-party providers that tack on fees. After arrival, you can use bus, subway, ride services, or ferries instead of taxis. By taking action you can avoid or minimize expenses within a range of categories:

  • Pack small snacks for the airport.
  • Buy or borrow voltage converters before travelling.
  • Be aware of impulse purchases while shopping or sightseeing.
  • Set separate recreational, gift, and daily meal budgets.
  • Be aware of overpriced restaurants close to major tourist attractions.
  • Visit parks and town squares for free cultural experiences.
  • Compare the costs of affordable day tours to that of sightseeing on your own.
  • Remember entry fees may be charged when crossing the border into neighboring countries.
  • Talk to your cell phone provider about a temporary plan for overseas communications. Or use calling apps that you’ve researched.

By planning ahead, asking questions, sticking to a budget, and making some smart choices, you can minimize expenses. Just reaching another country is expensive. However, once you are there, you want to make memories.

Saving on small things can allow you to splurge on the experiences you really want. Have you always wanted to go on a photographic safari? Splurges are often worth it if they will create impressions to last a lifetime. Weigh the benefits of each experience when planning. You may decide to skip the luxury hotel to be able to enjoy a culinary tour, go scuba diving, or visit sites off the beaten path.

When Anthony Bianco of The Travel Tart explores a new destination, he “views a room as a place to sleep in only, as you’ll be out for most of the time, so you needn’t worry how basic it is as long as it's clean!” Walking or driving tours can be affordable and you will see more in less time. Taking a guided tour of a famous location may cost more, but you will probably have a greater enjoyment and understanding of the experience! Lisa Niver from We Said Go Travel recommends, "Budgeting for your activities. I love to go SCUBA diving and renting the gear plus boat fees can be expensive, but for me the cost is well worth it. When I travel, I want to see the underwater creatures. I would rather stay in a cheaper place and spend more on my excursions.”

If you know you will only visit a certain area once in your life, then it will be worth it to splurge on taking a train ride through the mountains or hiring a boat to reach a private island. By choosing what interests you most, you will gain value from your travel. Here are some additional tips for balancing spending with splurging during the international trip:
  • “Do as the locals do!” says Kristen of Be My Travel Muse. “Eat local, travel on the public transport that locals take, and talk to locals to find out how they do things. Just because you're a tourist doesn't mean that you have to pay tourist prices.”

  • Before leaving on your journey, download budget travel apps to be more prepared. So if you spontaneously rent a car or move to a scenic hotel, you can still locate a reasonable rate.

  • Look into free entertainment events or museum days in the cities you plan to visit. See if your association memberships, student status, or age qualify you for discount admissions to places you really want to see.

  • Use an app that helps you identify free Wi-Fi hot spots in unfamiliar cities so you can access social media accounts and e-mail.

  • If you are not going to purchase an international phone plan from your service provider, consider using a local SIM card in an unlocked smartphone. Discuss unlocking your phone with your carrier before travel.

  • Choose experiences related to the culture or setting that you could not do at home.

  • Fly to one destination and then take a bus or use a railway pass to visit other major cities you’ve longed to see. Below you’ll find sample train travel times between European cities (2017), as published by Eurail.com.

Train route Travel time
(by high-speed train)
Paris to Amsterdam 3h 20 min
Vienna to Budapest 6h 15 min
Mardir to Barcelona 2h 45 min
Rome to Venice 2h 50 min

Short-term apartment or home rentals may be cheaper than hotel lodging in some international cities. They can also immerse you in perks, like a private swimming pool, which are unavailable in a traditional hotel. If you like to travel with groups of friends or family, renting a home can be a cheaper option than booking individual hotel rooms. To determine if you can save, you’ll have to be willing to perform rate comparisons and do the research to confirm that the vacation rental is safe, comfortable, and convenient.

When planning meals, you may decide on eating affordably for two meals each day and enjoying finer dining or a unique eating experience during the third meal. If you choose to stay in a short-term rental rather than a hotel, you can also do some cooking that allows you to savor regional fare, while saving on food costs. Buying snacks in a grocery store can help you save as well.

The first step to a dream trip is having passports and/or visas in hand. Once this step is complete, you can handle more personal preparations and double check your travel budget. Contact PassportsandVisas.com if you need assistance today. We wish you happy and safe travels!