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Go, travel, but don’t return empty‑handed  

June 12, 2017

Lifestyle Upgrade 101

Cover art Samantha Gonzales1

Starting May 29, we will be running a column by the bestselling authors of I Wish They Taught Money in School, Sharon W. Que and Clarissa Seriña‑de la Paz. The column will come out every Money Monday.

Who doesn’t want to shop in Bangkok, say hello to the Notre Dame, and stretch their legs up the hills of Santorini? These used to be just items on our bucket list too, and we’re pretty sure that by this time, you’ve also filled your own sheet with things to do and places to visit. But, while we’re all for #TravelGoals, we’re also the first to say that you gotta #TravelSmart.

Yes, you deserve that dream vacation and sure, the experience is priceless but when you end up penniless by the end of the trip, you’re left with nothing else to celebrate. So, how then do we get to enjoy traveling the world without breaking the bank?


Learn the tricks of the trade.

Art Samantha Gonzales

There are so many ways for you to get information on the best accommodations, most sulit transportation choices and starred restaurants. Go to travel fairs and familiarize yourself with what’s available for your trip. Will it be more cost‑efficient if you book a tour or is a DIY itinerary better? Compare flights and accommodations by visiting many sites like Agoda, Trivago, etc.

Clarissa: I personally go to Skyscanner (both the app and website) to compare flight prices and accommodation options.

Sharon: Research thoroughly and plan ahead of time. This will give you a lot of better deals and will save you more time and money.

Be wary of the numerous seat sale promos that will incessantly lure you into booking that trip on a whim. Make sure that they really are good deals and not just secret traps. Since these are almost always non‑refundable and non‑transferable, weigh your options well.

Sharon: I book my trips almost a year ahead, so I get to wait for seat sales that offer me the best possible deals. The only way seat sales and promos will trap you is if you’re booking them when you’re financially not ready for it.

Clarissa: Booking ahead will also entail risks of your trip coinciding with other commitments. Weigh the odds of these seat sales. I once had to forego my ticket because my best friend ended up getting married on the day of my trip. It was a good thing I got the ticket at a really cheap price so I didn’t mind the money I’ve lost and the trip I had to delay.

Consult friends and ask them for tips that would change your experience significantly.

Clarissa: In Italy, we ended up getting reasonably-priced rooms in—guess what!—a convent in Vatican through advice from friends. Who would even think of doing that? We were in the middle of Rome, staying in such good rooms all while meeting friendly nuns every day. It was such an experience! There was also this one time, when my husband and I were in Greece, another friend advised us that it was best to explore the island by driving ourselves. We were so surprised that we only had to pay 80 euros for renting a car. Yes, that's only ₱4,000 for all 5 days. I don’t think we would’ve discovered these golden nuggets elsewhere.

Sharon: During our trip to Greece, we once booked a package from Insight Vacations. It included accommodations at Saint John Hotel VIllas, a world class resort, tours, transfers and most of our meals at $4,300 per head for 4 nights. We later found out that had we not gotten the package, we would’ve paid $2,920 a night just for accommodations alone. Imagine how happy and surprised we were of our savings!


Treat but don’t deplete.

Art Samantha Gonzales

You’re on a vacation because you want to enjoy, and scrimping your way all throughout the trip and getting too caught up with how much you are already spending will definitely cause you more stress than relaxation. Set a reasonable and realistic budget that will let you indulge yet won’t rob you of your entire life savings. Treat yourself to a good balance of “bongga” and “tipid” meals while on vacation.

Clarissa: My technique is months before the trip, I commit to allocating a part of my paycheck to fund my travel. So, let’s say my trip is in April, I will save and not spend that much from January to March. It’s all about getting the balance, and preparing and planning the trip well.

Sharon: Personally, I prefer getting tour packages because itineraries are already planned out and paid for before the actual trip. This way, I can bring only a small amount for pocket money and it lets me manage my spending even better.


Let perks work for you.

Art Samantha Gonzales

In our book, “I Wish They Taught Money In School”, we wrote about how credit cards can be your best friend. Use your credit card to your advantage and consider getting hotel memberships especially if you travel a lot.

Clarissa: My husband is a member of Accor hotels and we enjoy a ton of perks. With reasonable annual membership fees, we enjoy free overnight stays, half‑the‑price buffets, even resto and bar discounts, just to name a few. When traveling, I also use my credit card to earn some points (for even more future travels!) and for safety reasons (I don’t like a carrying a lot of cash around). Be smart and make sure you know the exchange rates that can cause you to spend more than when paying in cash. Research on what other perks you can enjoy like free lounge privileges in airports, free hotel accommodations, and points getting converted to miles, which have actually earned me free flights before. There are a lot of benefits so, enjoy them while you can. Just remember my golden rule when using credit cards: pay everything in full every month. In this way, you really take advantage of your card’s perks and save a lot when traveling.

Sharon: The key here is to not only get good deals but to make sure you are disciplined enough to utilize the offers available. Using a credit card is only beneficial if you are disciplined to paying it fully and if you don’t keep spending money you don’t even have.

It’s good to be adventurous in your travels, but exercise sound judgment when managing your finances for them. Your travels will only be enjoyable if you don’t come home empty‑handed. So, make do with what you have and let the offers and deals augment the experience for you. Remember, #TravelSmart in order to be truly #TravelGoals


Clarissa Seriña‑de la Paz and Sharon W. Que are financial literacy advocates and the bestselling authors of “I Wish They Taught Money in School” and “Money Grows on Trees” Check out their books at www.lifestyleupgrade101.com. Get 10% off, plus a free notepad and bookmark, by sharing this story with the hashtags #MoneyMonday and #SparkUp. Remember to make your post public!