Ask a Washington, D.C. Expert: Tips for Traveling Internationally on a Budget

June 14, 2014 8:00 AM

Want to travel internationally but afraid you lack the budget to do so? Don’t fret. With the right planning and research, you can have your dream vacation on a budget. Travel expert Trinita Brown can get you started with these tips for traveling abroad.

Trinita Brown
(202) 237-8418

Trinita Brown, a D.C.-based travel expert with over 20 years of experience traveling abroad and CruiseOne customer service representative, has helped countless singles, couples and families plan the vacation of a lifetime. From family reunions abroad to romantic honeymoons, Brown has planned it all. Check out her tips to help you travel internationally without going broke.

Do Your Research

Details like the destination you’d like to visit as well as the time of year you plan on visiting make all the difference. “It is important to consider what season it will be at your travel destination when you arrive—often there are tremendous bargains to be found when you travel to a location when it is not the height of their usual tourist season,” explains Brown.

Once you have decided when and where to go, plan to learn as much as you can about anything that might have an impact on your travel costs. For example, learn about the tipping rate and whether or not gratuities are included in the cost of services; the cost of transportation for taxis, buses etc.; the cost of meals and activities. Figure out your “must-see” sights—how much does it cost to go to favorite museums or other tourist attractions. Seek to find out what is free or very low cost to visit.

Make A Budget

It’s important to know how much money you have to spend before deciding how much you want to save. “Understand what costs are fixed—hotel or other accommodations, plane tickets etc. You can keep these costs down by booking your ticket in advance,” Brown says. She also encourages travelers to plan a budget for meals and to keep tabs on your adult beverages. “If you like beer and wine, try and stick with the local brands as they are often the best price and you get to indulge in the local scene.” Other ways to reduce expenses in your budget: consider public transportation over a private transfer and purchase must-have vacation items like sunscreen and over-the-counter medications for ailments like allergies, headaches or an upset stomach, prior to your trip.

Also, check for the availability of ATMs. “It is generally better to use ATMs to get the best exchange rate over the exchange brokers at the airport or cashing travelers check at the bank,” advises Brown. She also recommends travelers to contact their bank prior to travel to advise them of their travel plans—this will help ensure that your bank does not stop or limit your transactions while you are overseas because of perceived fraud. It is also advisable to bring a back-up credit card for emergencies.

Related: Best Summer Backpacking Trips Near Washington DC

Purchase Travel Insurance

Travel insurance protects travelers from unforeseen circumstances, such as personal emergencies or booking errors made by the airlines or travel companies. For budget travelers, this is even more critical. It also protects travelers if emergencies arise once they reach their destination and provide 24-hour travel assistance.

Most policies include coverage for loss of luggage and/or medication, assistance with lost passports, assistance with medical or dental emergencies for accidental and treatment in foreign countries as well as provide access to emergency cash. “Many people think that their health insurance carriers will cover them abroad—some may, but often it will take a long time to be reimbursed or they may not cover the entire situation.” Some medical providers abroad will not accept U.S. insurance.

Although travel insurance is often perceived as a financial burden, most policies cost about four to eight percent of the total trip cost. If any of these emergencies situations arise, though, it will be totally worth it.

All-Inclusive Vacations

With almost everything being included—including lodging, food and drinks, activities and entertainment—a budget traveler can focus on relaxing and not worrying about their next expense. “An all-inclusive vacation can be more economical in the long run. No real surprises!” exclaims Brown. Many destinations provide all-inclusive vacation packages including the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, Asia plus many cities throughout the US.

Not much of a beach bum? Consider booking a river cruise. Generally known as a luxury vacation, a budget-minded traveler can plan a fabulous vacation at a tremendous value. “Many river cruise companies often offer specials on airfare and the cruise itself—sometimes offering two-for-one pricing. Most of your costs are fixed so you can budget your funds,” explains Brown.

Related: Best Free Tours in Washington DC

Think Outside Of the Box

There are several alternatives to the average and familiar hotel room. Popular non-hotel accommodation websites include AirBNB, which offers private rentals including rooms, apartments and even treehouses and boats for the budget-minded traveler. Couchsurfing, a hospitality exchange site, provides visitors with locations where you can stay with locals in almost every country. With over seven million members, you can learn about culture, food and language first-hand without spending a lot of money. Or choose BeWelcome, a non-profit, open-source and member-run service where you find a place to stay with local hosts from all over the world. These sites are great sources for adventurous travelers who want to explore the world but have limited funds.

Susan Diranian is a freelance writer living in Ashburn, VA. She is covering Travel & Outdoors. Her work can be found at

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