Travel Sticker Shock

June 24, 2014

Sorry for leaving you hanging for the last couple of weeks. We were in Brazil taking in some sun, visiting the sites and watching the beautiful game.

We barely scraped the surface on our whirlwind tour of Brazil but it was packed with highlights. We hiked to the immaculate beach of Lopez Mendez on Ilha Grande. In Rio, we kicked off the world cup on the Copacabana, made the requisite stops at Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain and went hang gliding for Emily’s birthday. We experienced the wonder of an overflowing Iguassu Falls and took in a glimpse of high society around Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo. Oh, we also witnessed Tim Cahill bury a beauty of a goal in the fixture between the Netherlands and Australia; there was beer and popcorn flying everywhere.

We arrived home over the weekend and are trying to get back into the swing of things. The one thing that we haven’t gotten to yet is the state of our finances. How much did we spend over the course of our trip? We don’t know. We’re currently running blind.

This isn’t a scenario we are familiar with. We’re generally pretty conscious of our spending and track purchases made on our credit card, but this time around, we paid for most everything in cash. I could have, should have, would have written down our purchases, but didn’t care to bring a pen and notebook around. I would have used my phone to track purchases, but in my defense, it died right before we left. (On a side note, I’ve just fixed it for $10 with a battery replacement kit off eBay and some handy iPhone 4 battery replacement instructions)


The Canadian Dollars we converted to Brazilian Reais are all gone. It was spent on tasty pastels and maybe a pair of Havaianas too many. It was certainly an enjoyable time, but the full effects our free spending may result in some belt tightening in the coming months. The challenge will now be to grudgingly sift through all of our remaining transactions and make the necessary adjustments. We’re not looking forward to it but ignoring the situation won’t make things any better. We best get to it.

How do you keep track of your expenses when you travel? 

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  • Reply Alicia @ Financial Diffraction June 25, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    I just realized you two were gone when I clued in the World Cup was on. Glad you enjoyed your time.

    I’ve only travelled once properly on a budget (ugh, my past self!) and I just used my debit card for most everything and tallied up at the end of the day. Then at the end of the trip it was pretty easy peasy to calculate the total spent.

  • Reply save. spend. splurge. June 25, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    We set a budget based on averages of what we ate on similar trips, what we spent for sightseeing, and then have a contingency of 15%. All that money from CAD gets converted into USD and then we go on that. If the money runs out or starts to disappear pretty quickly, then we start cutting back in the budget significantly.

    Whatever we don’t spend in USD, we keep for the next trip.

    For shopping and incidentals, I bring an extra $1000 USD along with me because sometimes we end up wanting to do stuff or we ate more than expected, and BF has to “borrow” from my personal shopping fund and use it as our common budget for food.

    More often than not, he budgets pretty well for us to come out without having to dip into extra savings or spending.

  • Reply SarahN June 25, 2014 at 9:18 PM

    Very good question – given I head to Japan in two weeks time!

    In the past I’ve had travel cards OR a credit card dedicated to international stuff. With those, I assign a budget (and then add contingency :)) and forward load, even the credit card! Saved me on fees. Like Saver, when I see it getting low (online or at an ATM), I slow down, but I also know I have a ‘real’ credit card should I need to make big purchases and budgeted cash flow is running low.

    Japan is a different type of trip for me than usual – it’s a tour, and mostly paid for (accommodation, some meals, entries etc). Thankfully an amount has been suggested for non included meals and ‘everything else’ and I’m warned that Japan can be hard to get international cards to work to withdraw cash, which is usually my preference. Thinking out loud, seems my best option would be to convert cash when I get to Japan. Easy enough, but not entirely as safe as having it on a card.

  • Reply Stephen @ How To Save Money June 30, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    Well, I for one am glad to hear you guys were a little bit free with the spending. Didn’t you find it at all liberating.

    A relative of mine had a saying that has stuck with me for probably 20 years now when it comes to travel and vacation. He said “when you’re on vacation: close your eyes, open your wallet, and have a good time!”. I have taken that advice to heart. I do all of my penny pinching before I leave and very little of it once I arrive so I can just focus on having fun and doing what I want while I’m there.

    It has worked for me so far and I’ve still done some pretty big trips for a fraction of the normal price for what we’ve experienced.

    Sounds like you had the trip of a lifetime. What did you do with the kiddo while you were gone (grandparents)?

  • Reply NZ Muse July 21, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    Trail Wallet. Best app ever.

    We sorta flew blind on our trip to Queensland over Easter. I meant to use Trail Wallet but we wound up just winging it. Which I am okay with!

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