There are so many incredible places in this world to travel to near and far. And if you’re like us, the more you travel the more you crave it. Our #bucketlist is deep! It’s fuel for the soul and opens up the world on so many levels. But reality is to get to where we want to go, often means a considerable amount of planning.

Times have changed. Women travellers, whether it be with friends or solo, are increasing in numbers. We’re not afraid to explore the world, sit in a restaurant alone, or haggle prices with market stall owners– things probably our moms and aunties might not have done.

When it comes to travel planning women don’t necessarily face much difference from men. We all need to plan what we see, do, eat, and stay.  We check in with Dylis D’Cruz, VP, Wealth Management at Meridian to answer some of our questions on travelling budget and planning.

If I want to go away once a year, how do I best budget for it?

Everyone needs a vacation. Sometimes life gets in the way and the funds just aren’t there. There are ways to save enough to enjoy that well-deserved trip. And not be stressed by big bills when you return. Start planning and budgeting by asking yourself where you want to go and what you want to do once you get there. From there:

Calculate the costs. Look at the big picture for the entire trip: flights, hotels, cabs, rental cars, meals, tours, attractions, spas, souvenirs and gifts, etc. Don’t forget about some often overlooked costs that can add up, like luggage fees, WiFi at hotels, roaming charges for your phone or tips. Once you pick your destination, work backwards. Divide the total by the weeks until your planned vacation. This will help you determine how much you need to save per week.

Start saving. Open a dedicated vacation account that can earn you a higher rate of interest. Talk to your banking advisor about setting up automatic transfers each time you get paid or sweeping extra funds from your chequing account.

Look for deals. Search the online sites that have great bargains on travel, hotels and packages. Check out credit cards or loyalty cards that offers travel rewards. You can build up points faster by using your credit card for regular bill payments. Be sure to transfer money back to your card right away. For a place to stay, Airbnb can be a great option too. In certain spots, you’re probably out and about all day anyway, so you don’t necessarily need all the hotel amenities.

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Should I get health and travel insurance?

The Government of Canada reminds that your provincial or territorial insurance is rarely valid outside Canada. So those plans may cover few or none of the costs if you need health care while away. The government will not reimburse your medical bills.

No matter your age or health status, it’s important to have insurance when you’re abroad. That can include health (medical, treatment, hospitalization), life and disability, and travel (flight cancellation, trip interruption, lost luggage). Look at what your insurance provider offers. Or check credit card offers, as many have this useful feature.

Ask about what the plan covers (are there any limitations? restrictions for pre-existing conditions?), what service is available (like emergency contacts for help or translation) and how expenses are handled (does the plan pay up front or are you reimbursed?).

Should I use cash or a credit card while I’m away?

It’s a good idea to use cash for smaller daily expenses. Credit card interest rates add up, and not every vendor takes cards. For convenience and safety, keep your card in your wallet. Some come with handy features like baggage delay and travel insurance, along with emergency cash or card replacement and lost/stolen card assistance.

If you’re carrying cash, don’t keep it all in one place. If you’re robbed, or if someone snatches a purse or wallet, you don’t want to lose everything at once. So keep some cash and cards in different bags, or carry a money belt. You can even have a wallet with just some small bills and inactive cards to give up if you’re mugged.

You can get foreign currency in Canada. If you run out while abroad, options include foreign exchange offices and local ATMs. Just compare the rates and any extra fees.

How should I deal with currency exchange?

If you plan on vacationing outside Canada, you’ll need foreign currency. Watch the rates and stockpile currency when they seem to be best in a U.S. account. Some financial institutions offer U.S dollar accounts that help you save money and hedge against currency fluctuations.

A useful tool on the go is the XE currency app. It offers live foreign exchange rates and stores the last updated rates (so you can use it even without the Internet).

One decision when using credit cards is whether to pay in the currency of the country or your home currency. It depends on foreign transaction and currency conversion fees. Check with your card issuer before leaving to see what’s most advantageous for you.

What information should I leave at home for my family?

Leave copies of your passport ID page, itinerary, insurance policy and prescriptions with loved ones. For your own protection, e-mail copies of your travel/insurance documents to yourself so you can access them wherever you are.

Let people know how to reach you, or arrange to contact them at regular times. That’s a safety issue too; if you don’t check in it could be an alert that something is wrong.

You can sign up for the Registration of Canadians Abroad Service. Government officials will contact you with information in case of an emergency (natural disaster, civil unrest) where you’re visiting. Keep contacts for the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate. If family are worried about your welfare, they can ask the embassy or consulate for help.

Should I let my credit card company know that I’m away?

Tell them you’ll be travelling just in case they think your card has been stolen and is being used in a country or city that doesn’t match your home address.

“You are the one that possesses the key to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness.” ~ Diane von Furstenberg

What are some considerations when travelling solo?

Solo travel is becoming increasingly popular, for men and women alike. Roughly one in four people will travel on their own this year, and Google searches for “solo travel” have risen by 40% from 2015 to 2017. Travel companies are also expanding their products for solo travellers.

There are great reasons to travel solo. You can be as busy or restful as you want, without worrying about a travel companion. You get to meet interesting people, as you’re more likely to connect with other travellers and locals. You also get out of your comfort zone, discovering not just new places but also something about yourself. That can be a great adventure and confidence booster.

While travelling solo can be fun, it makes sense to take precautions. The Government of Canada has an online publication called “Her own way – a woman’s safe travel guide”. It’s aimed at women, but much of the advice applies to anyone travelling by themselves.

Some of their tips:

If touring solo for the day, leave a note in your room with details on where you’re going. This information could help track you down if you don’t return as planned.

Never tell strangers where you’re staying or disclose details of your travel plans to anyone you don’t fully trust.

Avoid isolated situations that could put you at risk, like travelling in train carriages where you’re the only passenger, or walking/jogging/sightseeing alone in secluded areas (especially at night).

If dining out at night, perhaps choose a nearby restaurant or arrange to have a taxi pick you up and bring you back to where you’re staying.

Book your lodgings in advance, or travel early enough in the day so you’ll have time to find a suitable place before dark. That avoids having to search for a hotel at night in a strange place.

Ask to see the room before taking it. Keep your room number and location private. Don’t accept a room if the check-in clerk calls out your name or room. Check if the door locks properly and that you’re close to the elevator. Avoid the ground floor. Consider packing a rubber door wedge for added security.