Manage Travel Money

We were slowly starting to save money for our travel plans. The next obvious step was to come up with a plan for spending it as well.

manage travel money
Source: http://cupegraf.com

Our confirmed itinerary (post coming soon) included 17 different currencies  across Hong Kong, Nepal, India, Europe (Scandinavian countries, UK & Ireland, EU region, Turkey), possibly Dubai, South America (Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia) and finally US. We definitely needed a plan to manage travel money.

We researched travel cards that hold multiple currencies such as Qantas Cash Card, Aus Post Prepaid Card, Travelex Card and others from various financial institutes. After reviewing the charges and transaction fee involved (which btw is $0), we decided to go with Qantas Card Card for Hong Kong, Europe (all regions), Dubai ad US. While we are spending with this card, we will also be accumulating points as we go! In theory, it is a win win situation. We started watching the exchange rates and when the time was right, we loaded the card with our travel funds.

For Nepal and India we will be relying on my ICICI Bank Debit Card. We have transferred the allocated funds to my bank account to avoid any recurring transfer fee.

The South American region is a tough one. After loads of research we decided to rely on cash with large amount withdrawals using our Citibank Debit Card. As most of our transaction with be involved around accommodation, transport and meals we assume that card transcations can be tough to be fulfilled, thus the decision of using cash.

We will also be carrying our Citibank Credit Card as a backup / emergency option. Using the credit card will incur large fee so we will aim to keep the usage to minimum.

Do watch for our posts from the road as we document our learnings along the journey.

Round the World tickets

Ever since the book ‘Around the World in 80 days’ by Jules Verne was published, a round the world trip has been the ultimate adventure for most people. Through our research, we made a decision to head west, and decided to look into tickets.

source: morgueFile.com

This is when we stumbled upon round the world tickets. The thought of one simple ticket excited us. It meant we could buy one ticket early, and be sure that we will be flying on a certain date. However, in another post, Shruti outlined that we didn’t have a fixed budget, and setting a date of departure early on would not be possible.

In any case, we kept looking into buying a round the world ticket as it seemed the best option at the time. This is when we realised the next issue with the round the world ticket. A round the world can only be used in one direction with no backtracking, e.g. If heading west from Australia, one can take a flight to Singapore then Istanbul followed by London but it may not be possible to travel around Europe and fly from Rome to New York.

At this stage, we were still set on a Round The World tickets. We could alter our plans, so we could visit India first then Europe and then South America on the way to Sydney. However, this is when we realised another detail of the RTW ticket. Adding in mileage and destination can increase the price dramatically(As much as $10,000 per person).

In summary, a RTW ticket reduces your freedom but might be cheaper and simpler. If your aim is to see a set number of cities in a relatively short amount of time, RTW tickets are perfect. Even still, RTW tickets are so complicated, that unless an itinerary matches exactly what you had in mind, you will require a travel agent.

We discussed and agreed, that this was not the kind of travel we wanted to undertake. We could see ourselves traveling to a number of cities and countries across a large area and we didn’t want to be penalized for it. Therefore, we decided to buy ticket as you go.

In addition, we decided to use our credit cards for our shopping and use the accumulated points to buy at least 1 major ticket. Most major credit cards allow you to accumulate points to buy flights and some will even allow you link them up with a frequent flyer program to accumulate frequent flyer points.

Finally, Shruti’s uncle heard about our travel plans through her Dad. Neither of us knew, that he works in the management of a major US airline. He offered us a number of economy tickets, but the catch was, that we would have to visit the US. We were ecstatic and decided to make a trip in the US to see friends, family and so many places on TV.

In summary, flying around the world requires you to think about how you would like to travel around the world. There’s no written rule but in general:

  • RTW ticket – Fixed number of destinations, fixed dates for flights, fixed direction and a certain limit in mileage. It provides one ticket in hand, but you can have limited options depending on the alliance.
  • Buy as you go – Provides freedom in terms of destinations, dates and direction, but you have to buy tickets on the road. You can use credit cards to accumulate points and frequent flyer points for tickets.

Packing for RTW Travel

packing for RTW travelPacking is a big task. I have over packed in the past, carried clothes and things I did not even consider wearing or using.

Going on RTW travel, we knew we had to pack light. We started looking at blogs of other travelers and identifying what we will need.

Here is the initial list I had drafted –

  • Good backpacks

Clothes & Shoes

  • 5x under garments
  • 2x comfortable pyjamas / track pants (comfortable for sleeping ans intransit)
  • 5x t-shirts / tops for daily wear
  • 3x pants / shorts
  • 3x fancy shirt / top for a nice evening
  • Swimmers
  • Thermals
  • Big jackets for winter
  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Beanie
  • 4x socks – cotton and woolen
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Thongs
  • Fancy evening shoes 

Toiletries & Accessories (travel pack sizes)

  • Toothbrush and tooth paste
  • Shaving cream, razor & blade
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shower gel
  • Face wash
  • Face moisturiser
  • Body moisturiser
  • Minimum make up
  • Medical kit – diarrhea tablets, malaria tablets, cold & flu tablets, panadol, band-aids (about 8 tablets each in case we can’t buy from local chemist)
  • Nail cutter
  • Scissors
  • Towels
  • Sunnies
  • Hats
  • Watch

Electronics

  • Torch and rechargable batteries
  • Camera and rechargable batteries
  • World plug with USB ports
  • Laptop / Tablet and charger
  • 2x smart phones and charger
  • Hard drive

Miscellenaous

  • Money belt
  • Fabric odor freshner
  • Locks and chains
  • Hanging clothes peg
  • Small bags to separate items within bag

Documents

  • Travel insurance
  • Original & photocopy of –
    • passport
    • driving license
    • marriage cerrificate
    • Emergency money

The above list helped us guide our planning, shopping and packing for RTW travel. We will do another post to show what is in our bag before we start our travel.

Saving For Travel

Taking one year off to travel needs lot of planning and discipline. As soon as we decided to travel, we went on budget mode and started saving as much as we could.

saving for travel

Here are some quick win tips we followed for saving for travel –

  • We ditch that morning coffee from a cafe. Instead Manish made his at home while I rotated between nescafe coffee and milo at work.
  • We stopped buying cafe brekky every morning. Making eggs, toast or oats porridge for brekky at home doesn’t take much time. I am not an early riser, so I bought instant oats mix and bread for work. Otherwise, you can also make smoothies with yogurt / milk, fruits and nuts in the morning or the night before.
  • Lunches aren’t cheap in Australia, I was usually spending at least $10 per day. I started getting lunch from home and rotated the menu so I won’t get bored.
  • Avoid taking taxis where possible. The public transport is cheap and available. We started to plan your trips so we can avoid paying high taxi fares, this included late night bus from city after a night out.
  • We started planning our week’s food schedule and hitting the local supermarket. We cooked a larger portion for dinner so we could pack it for lunch the next day. If you aren’t into daily cooking, you can use the weekend to plan and prepare your brekky and lunch for the week.
  • We reviewed our phone bill, internet and TV plan to identify any cost efficiencies. Downgrading mobile plan or unsubscribing a channel we hardly watched resulted in recurring savings.
  • We reviewed our gym, swimming pool and club membership that we weren’t using regularly. We cancelled some of them and started use public facilities where possible. Most suburbs have parks with basic gym facility and track for runs.
  • Tried to make full use of Cheap Tuesdays. We planned our date nights on tuesdays so we could still enjoy movies and dinner.
  • We started renting movies from Hyotts kiosk and making popcorn at home :)
  • Avoided massive parties or drinking sessions. Alcohol is cheaper at retail stores than at restaurants, bars or clubs. We started picking BYO restaurant so we could still enjoy a glass of wine without hurting our wallet.
  • We tapped onto loyalty programmes such as Qantas Frequent Flyer, Everday Rewards and used Citibank Credit Card. We planned our grocery shopping very week which helped us earn savings on our bill and simultaneously gain points. We can now pay for part of our Roumd The World flight tickets with accumulated points.

Saving for travel does not mean you need to give up your lifestyle and stay home. It means you need to be tactical about your expenses. Start by reviewing your past month bank statements and start identifying areas where you can potentially save. Be disciplined and continously remind yourself why you are doing it. Traveling is a great motivation.

Round The World Research

As stated previously, our interests lay in visiting the Indian subcontinent, Europe, South America and potentially South Africa. As we began doing research into the subject, we realised that the distances and seasons made it an impossibility to do it all!

Having lived in India, we knew that most of India is off-limits between July and September. On the other hand, this is the perfect and the most expensive time to be in Europe. In addition, Chile and Argentina have winter at the same time as Australia so May to August would not be the best time to visit those countries especially Patagonia which the southern part of both these countries.

South Africa drew the shortest straw first. To be able to get to South Africa at the perfect times to see the wildlife would require crossing the entire African continent from Europe and India while it will be a long flight over the Atlantic. We decided to leave it for another time!

During this time, we also listed the festivals around the world we would like to see. Some of these included Holi in India, Carnival in Rio, La Tomatina in Spain, Running of the bulls in Spain and Tomorrowland in Belgium. Not surprisingly, these festivals are not at the same time of the year and it can be a significant cost to get accommodation and visit these festivals.

After considering the destinations, festivals and our situation as an Indian couple, we decided to take a sabbatical and travel for a year. This allowed us enough time in each region and experience the culture. The rough plan then was Europe for 3 months in the Summer, Indian subcontinent for 3-4 months in the autumn/winter and South America for 5 months.

The next challenge was to decide which direction to take. Living in Sydney, we could fly east to Chile or Argentina and work our way through South America then fly to Europe and India. However, we would need to then start in January, finish South America by may or june and then head into European summer. The budget and a new job simply did not allow this option.

Therefore, we decided to save up for a year and travel straight to Europe then India and from there to Brazil. We left the plan at this for many months and began researching into the details of each place except South America which would be last.

If you are planning a round the world trip, it is important to have a rough idea of the areas you want to visit, the duration of the journey and when you can afford to leave. This is a good starting point for the duration in each place and tickets. In the next post, I will highlight our research into RTW flights v Individual tickets.