Holly could tell by the tone in my voice that I was more than shocked. I was infuriated.
“You have got to be kidding me! There is absolutely no way I’m paying you that amount of money.”
We had just returned from Bora Bora. After flying all night, I flipped on my phone to check my email and see if I had missed any calls. As I did, a few text messages rolled in from my phone company. Apparently, my account had been locked until further notice. It looked as though I’d been hacked.
Holly and I zipped through customs and I immediately called my phone carrier to see what the problem was. Indeed our account had been suspended, but it wasn’t because of any hacking. We had unknowingly racked up over $15,000 in charges overseas.
Yes, $15,000. That’s some serious cheese.
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Our $15,000 Phone Bill
This was the first mention we had even received that something was wrong. Our phones worked fine. Prior to this, we didn’t get any texts or calls from our carrier. There weren’t even any roaming warnings on our phones. Since we pay for the international plan, we assumed all was good.
We were wrong.
Long story short, we ended up getting the total taken off our bill. Thankfully, customer service helped us out, and we avoided a serious financial disaster. With that said, this could have been a money mistake of epic proportions.
While a $15,000 phone bill isn’t likely to be in your cards, people make money mistakes all the time when traveling. Here are a few of the most common mistakes to watch out for when traveling yourself!
6 of the Biggest Money Mistakes Made When Traveling
#1) Running Up a Phone Bill
Since we’re already on the subject, make sure you check your phone plan before travelling internationally. As we found out, it doesn’t take long to run up a huge bill when you’re overseas – especially if you’re using data. Our $15,000 bill basically included us surfing Facebook for a few hours… and we were on the resort’s free WiFi for most of the trip! Do yourself a favor and check your plan before you go.
Personally, we love T-Mobile because our package includes unlimited free international data in over 140 countries. That covers pretty much all of Europe and the Caribbean… but obviously not Bora Bora!
Even if your company offers an upgraded data plan, it could still be cheaper to just buy an international SIM card with data instead. Regardless, run the numbers and check your coverage areas to make sure you don’t make the same mistake we did.
#2) Not Having a Travel Fund
When it comes to travel, the biggest financial mistakes almost all happen during the planning stages. Failing to save for your trip is the most costly of them all.
For most people, it’s practically impossible to save for a vacation in just a few weeks. That means you have to start planning early. Unfortunately, many people never even start. So, they end up putting the whole vacation on credit, spending more than they can afford, and paying it off for months after the trip.
Instead of scrambling to find the money, start a travel savings fund instead. It’s a simple trick that can mean the difference between a trip that’s fully funded and one that sucks your budget dry for the next six months. Besides, who wants to come home to a mountain full of bills anyway?
#3) Choosing a Destination (and Sticking to It)
In my eyes, one of the biggest money mistakes travelers make happens before they spend a dime: They choose a destination without shopping around.
Most people simply where they want to go without considering other options or whether they can afford it. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with choosing a location and saving for it, you could end up paying double (or even triple the cost) than you would in a location that provides a similar experience. Plus, you may miss out on some great sales happening in other places you’d actually love to visit.
Instead of settling on a destination before looking around, select a handful of target destinations first. Then, shop around and choose your final destination based on price. By starting with an open mind, you could save yourself thousands and still experience the trip of a lifetime.
#4) Being Inflexible with Travel Dates
Want to save thousands of dollars on travel? Be flexible with your travel schedule.
You could literally save 50% on the cost of your trip by traveling when things aren’t so busy. For instance, booking a trip to the Caribbean over the summer (or to Europe during the winter) could easily cost you half as much. Likewise, try to avoid flying over a weekend. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the cheapest days to fly, so book midweek whenever possible.
Obviously, this isn’t always possible. If you’re tied down to traveling during school breaks, then you can only do what you can do. However, being flexible whenever possible is a huge money saver that could help you get far more bang for your travel buck. Play with your dates before you book and you could save thousands.
#5) Not Planning Ahead
There’s a certain beauty in not scheduling every minute of your travels. By letting your trip lead you where it will, you’re bound to experience people and places you otherwise would never have seen. But not doing any advanced planning? That’s a financial disaster in the making.
Planning a head is one of the most important things you can do to save money on travel. If you’re planning any type of sightseeing, it’s important that you budget for those expenses ahead of time. In some instances, sightseeing passes could save you hundreds of dollars per person. (Hint: Use this list of sightseeing passes to see if there’s a pass where you’re going!) Other times, paying at the door may be a better idea. Run the numbers before you go and figure out what’s best for your budget.
Additionally, flights and hotels can be far cheaper if you book in advance. Generally speaking, airlines and hotels open up their availability about 11 or 12 months ahead of time. Because demand is low, flights and rooms are typically far cheaper when they are first announce. As they book up, usually around 6 to 9 months out, prices increase considerably. Booking early (or extremely late, like within the last week) is a great way to save major money.
#6) Failing to Use Credit Card Rewards
Guys if you’re still not taking advantage of credit card rewards, what are you waiting for? These things can literally help you travel for (almost) FREE all around the world. We’ve used them to travel to places like Rome, London, Paris, the Caribbean… and all for (literally) pennies on the dollar.
Maybe you’re confused about credit card rewards. Maybe you’re wondering how something could be “free” if you have to pay thousands to get it. Here’s the trick: Don’t pay extra.
Seriously, use your cards to buy exactly what you normally would and no more. (Get good at creating a monthly budget first!) Put your regular spending on your rewards card, earn points for the money you spend, and redeem those points for free travel.
Better yet, when you open a new card, you may have the opportunity to earn a sign up bonus. Those huge point hauls can save you thousands on the cost of your next trip. By using your cards wisely, you can see the world for practically free!
Like I said, most of the biggest money mistakes travelers make happen during the planning process. By planning ahead and avoiding the mistakes I’ve listed above, you might find that travel isn’t as expensive as you thought.
Better yet, you won’t wake up to a $15,000 phone bill either.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, happy traveling!