I may be flattering myself, but I'd like to think we're getting close to having figured out this whole traveling on a budget thing. Not to be confused with budget travel - which we do also - but this is about sticking to a budget when you're on a trip. Here are a few of my best tips:
1. Plan ahead so that you can pay all your bills before your trip. This can even mean just scheduling them if payday falls during your trip and you need to wait until payday to make a payment. I actually budget a year out (jury is still out on how that method works - it works great until a huge expense comes up after you've already budgeted out the year) so it's easy for me to say okay, I will make sure we pay these bills early this month to get on a schedule where we can handle them before we're out of town.
2. Figure out your money plan. Whenever possible, you should always try to figure out a money plan before you go on a trip. Will the destination have ATMs? What's the exchange rate? Do you have any credit/debit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees? For us the best strategy is typically to take cash out of the ATM in country (as few times as possible to minimize charges but within reason because you don't want to be SOL if something happens to your cash) and to use a credit card with a $0 balance and no foreign transaction fees to track spending accurately. Whatever you do, please try to avoid getting money exchanged at the airport by TravelEx (which has ridiculous rates and insane fees). I would research the use of cards in your travel destination, availability of ATMs, and exchange rates offered by your current bank (you can sometimes get currency from your local bank, especially if it's something easy like Euro) to make the decision on how you want to approach things. Many places don't take travelers checks anymore, so I wouldn't bother with those.
3. Budget properly for your trip. Okay, so I'm pretty proud. Our last trip (Amsterdam - we'll get to that soon!) we were under budget by $400 and used our last cash at the airport for snacks. That is absolutely ideal because then you don't have to worry about changing any cash back (if you do have a small amount of leftovers I would just save it for the next trip if it's in the foreseeable future) and of course being under budget is always fantastic. Think realistically about what you'll be doing and eating.
If you want to go to a sit down restaurant for every meal, your meals are going to be more expensive. I personally love breakfast but feel it's the easiest meal of the day to be cheap about because you can grab a pastry and a drink and be on your way. Plus, getting going early might allow you to make it to some places without before large crowds. Also, a lot of hotels include breakfast in your nightly rate. Eating at local food stands (with extreme CAUTION!!!) is another way to experience local culture and have a cheap meal.
If you have any big activities planned beforehand, you'll want to research the cost of that as well, even if you don't book in country. If you're going to shop while traveling, have a budget. Budget for souvenirs. And of course unexpected expenses. One thing that always gets us is taxis from airports. Airports aren't always centrally located and it can sometimes cost an arm and a leg to get to or from them. When you're arriving after a long trip, you just want to get to your hotel. When you're departing to go back home, you may be in a rush. So if you're going to end up taking taxis to an airport that's further out, take that into account before you go (for example, it cost us 45 euro to get from Amsterdam airport to our hotel - but on the way back we took Uber and it was half the price!).
4. Know the exchange rate. Don't get screwed out of your money because of a calculation error. My favorite app is called Convert (I use thee free version) because it updates exchange rates when you're able to use data or connect to wifi, but you can still use it offline. It also does all types of conversions like metric system, etc. It's also a good idea to try and memorize how much $5, $10, $20, and maybe $100 are in your destination if the exchange rate is something weird. That way you will always have a few reference points for how much things are.
5. Let the bank know you're traveling. You can do this either online or by phone. You wouldn't want to have your card declined while traveling - that can be quite a hassle!
What are your best travel tips regarding budgeting? Anyone have great suggestions about getting foreign currency?