Being Smart with Your Money

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Airlines: It has been my experience that companies which advertise in the travel sections of the Sunday New York Times, LA Times and Miami Herald have the best airline rates. Be sure to check the Internet as well for information on the many agencies specializing in cheap travel abroad. AirHitch (800-326-2009) and Air Tech (212-219-7000) are two companies based out of New York City which specialize in discount travel for those who are flexible. Alternatively you can contact a courier service, like Air Courier Association (800-822-0888) for a cheap ticket. Take the time to do some research to make the most of your money. I tend to stick with companies with a good track record and prefer paying by credit card— not cash. Just in case something goes wrong, my credit card company can do a lot better job recovering funds than I can. I also find that it’s much cheaper to fly in an out of major cities with large international airports, like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris and Amsterdam.

Countries: If you aren’t the richest guy in the world, you may want to postpone visiting places like Scandinavia, France, Korea and Japan, which are extremely expensive. Spain, Portugal, Greece, Argentina and Brazil are somewhat cheaper, and your money will go a longer way. At some point in your life though, no matter how little money you have, you’re just going to want to visit Sweden. So go ahead. Just be careful. It may have a lot of funny pictures on it, but that’s not Monopoly money you’re spending. Now, I’m not saying that you should deprive yourself so much that you have a miserable time or penny-pinching so much that a girl thinks you’re a squid. Remember, you are supposed to be on holiday. All I’m saying is to exercise good judgment.

Women: It’s my policy to never spend a significant amount of money on a chick unless I’m sure she’s worth it. Don’t be a bonehead and become some chick’s sponsor for the evening without getting anything out of it. I know some girls who have never paid for their own drink, meal or cover charge— ever! Yes, they may be beautiful, but be wary, if they seem spoiled. There are a lot of PB’s out there who are all too willing to be used by some beautiful chick as a means to an end. Spending money on her is only justified, if you can use it as a means to her end!

Transportation: The EuroRail or EuroPass is the way most travelers do Europe. Remember these passes aren’t accepted in Great Britain, so you have to make alternative travel plans. There are a bunch of options available to the traveler willing to brave the second class seating on European trains. Call 1-800-4-EURAIL for more information. The US is best done by automobile except within some major cities like New York where having a car is much more trouble than it is worth and it’s better to use the mass transit system. In places like South America and Asia, it could go either way. But regardless you have to figure out the best way for you to get around any particular city, especially in Europe, where there is fierce competition between buses, cabs, trains and subways for your business. Know the hours of operation, accessibility and cost of public transportation in every city you visit to save yourself time, money and unnecessary headaches.

Accommodations: Stay in youth hostels, pensions, casasparticulares and other budget accommodations to save money, if need be. Besides, these are great places to meet girls who are traveling, many of whom are also being careful with the cash. Sometimes this is enough of a reason to stay in a hostel even if you can afford a nicer place. But never compromise a good time because of a curfew, a lockout or a remote location of cheap accommodation. It’s not cheap if it’s a headache, or if you have to share a bunk bed with Ramon, the 300 lb. bedwetting Mexican tourist. If you are a real party animal, you can do as I did a few times while traveling with some Ausi’s in Europe. Wash up, change, shave and brush your teeth on the train or plane on your way to the next locale. Check you bag into a locker at the station or airport and hit the town. Pick up your stuff the next day and find a bed and a shower. My fraternity brothers and I once shaved and bathed in a fountain outsideithe fanciest restaurant in Key West the first night of spring break one year, while the shocked^customers looked disgustingly through the bay windows at us,

because all the hotels in town were booked for the night. Now that’s funny, and on top of that you save a night’s accommodations and have more money to party with and “get pissed” as the Ausi’s say!

Hosteling International publishes a “Guide to Budget Accommodation” that’s an invaluable reference for Europe. They also publish a listing of American and Canadian Youth Hostels. If you’re 25 years of age or younger, you can get a G025 cards from FIYTO (Federation of International Youth Travel Organizations). They publish a small pamphlet called the Travel Handbook, which shows cardholders how to get discounts on things like travel, food and accommodations worldwide. Although it isn’t so helpful for places like Europe, it may come in very handy when visiting places like South America, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

Food and Drink: Almost everywhere, with the exception of most every restaurant in Portugal, fast-food joint in the United States and the occasional eatery in college towns worldwide, it’s always less expensive to eat food and alcohol bought in supermarkets. Bread, cheese, cold cuts, milk and juice have comprised my meals many times while traveling overseas. As far as drinking is concerned, do as the other poor PB’s do and drink before you go out to the more expensive bars and clubs. Your wallet will thank you for it.

Monetary Exchange: This is usually a problem. The American Express Office in most every country gives a better exchange rate than the banks or those changing money in licensed money-exchange booths in an airport, train station or on the street, but there are some exceptions. In many places in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Czech Republic and Russia for example) there are still black markets for western currency, but it is technically illegal and often unsafe to exchange your money this way. Oftentimes, the black market doesn’t give much better exchange rates than the banks do. Visa has a great deal where you can deposit money into an account and then draw from it at a local ATM machine in whatever country you happen to be in at the moment (usually at fair rate) or purchase items by directly drawing from the account. Wherever you are, shop around and find the best exchange rates. Change only as much as you need to and keep your receipt if you have left over currency you have to change back. Except for countries with a preset, agreed upon exchange rate, you always lose on each transaction where money is exchanged, unless of course the currency you have has appreciated against the currency of your home country in the time between transactions. Think about carrying a little cash with you along with traveler’s checks. It may be more dangerous, but establishments and local banks often give better exchange rates for cold, hard cash as opposed to traveler’s checks, especially in places like Eastern Europe and Russia.

Communication: Long distance phone calling and postage are generally expensive and of unreliable quality in most every country except the United States, so be careful with the cash. Many countries in Europe have “phone cards” you can purchase and digital displays to keep you informed of how much cash you have left when you are making a long distance phone call. If a phone only uses coins, and you have to make a long distance or international call be prepared and bring a lot of chang

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