Spotting tourist traps
Dining gets expensive, especially in unfamiliar areas where you might be tempted to go with what you know rather than what's cheap. For example, when it comes to big tourist traps like New York City, Michonski says, "Place likes the Olive Garden in Times Square feel easy, because the brand is known, and the location is convenient, but you'll pay a premium for those things."
Instead, use these two quick and dirty tips to find a decent place for food in most areas: When you book a hotel, plug the address into Google Maps and then do a quick search for "restaurants," "food" or "bars." Write down a few for consideration, and then head on over to Yelp for notes on price, food, and quality. Also, it doesn't hurt ask friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter who live in your target destination for restaurant recommendations.
Not buying from the hotel
Skimping on some of the small stuff can be a good idea, too. Klapwald says avoiding hotel stores and refraining from raiding the mini bar are two easy ways to save money. Instead, she recommends you make your own mini-bar stash before checking into the hotel by finding a nearby store and stocking up on your favorite snacks. That way, "You can feel superior in the knowledge that you already saved some money." And if you forgot something small, like toothpaste, ask the concierge.
Avoiding made-in-China memorabilia
Before you leave, you'll probably want to bring a keepsake back with you. But if you're going to buy memorabilia, make sure it's worth it: Do yourself a favor and flip it over first.
"Many souvenirs, especially in Europe, are now made in China," says Christina Ernst, owner of VIP Alpine Tours. "Travelers want a cuckoo clock or linens, and they simply think these are made in Germany since they were purchased there, but in reality they are made elsewhere," says Ernst. Not every country requires products to carry a country of origin seal on them, so if you turn the thing over and can't find where it's made, odds are good it was made elsewhere.
Understanding overseas transactions
Aside from misleading souvenirs, foreign exchange fees also make it easier to spend more than you expected on overseas vacations. According to Sukhi Sahni, a Capital One spokeswoman, the Capital One survey cited in this article "has consistently shown that half of consumers aren't sure if their credit card charges fees for purchases made abroad."
Know what your bank charges for transaction fees so you aren't surprised when you get the bill. Some cards, like those from Capital One, do not have foreign transaction fees. Others charge up to 3%, like HSBC does to its non-'Premier' members. Also keep in mind that many foreign ATMs institute both a flat fee plus your bank's foreign transaction fee applied to the withdrawal amount. This information should be available on the bank's website.
Knowing your limit
It may seem like obvious advice, but stick to your budget. If creating a budget is stressing you out, just keep it simple. For example, if you have a checking account and savings account, keep only what you want to spend this vacation in your checking. You'll be able to monitor your expenses via mobile banking, and you'll also be able to get cash on hand in case of an emergency. Before traveling overseas, be sure to call your bank so your account won't get shut down from flagged charged. Other simple tips like minimizing ATM transactions, not overdoing it at the bar, and opting for public transportation will lower costs without taking away from your vacation experience.
--Written by Craig Donofrio for MainStreet