Dear Lifehacker: How Can You Budget For Overseas Travel As The Dollar Declines?

OzDollarsCents.jpg Dear Lifehacker, I have a question that I'd like to ask other Lifehackers: how are people dealing with overseas trips as the Australian dollar continues its steady decline? I purchased flights to the US in April for an insanely good price ($1400 return, inclusive of all taxes) during Virgin Australia's sale launch. However my trip isn't until late January 2009 and I'll be there until early March. I was planning a fairly grandiose tour of the US via train and enjoying a number of activities but as the AU dollar has continued to shrink so has my ability to do everything I initially wanted. I was sensible enough not to pay for things I didn't have the cash for so I'm not out of pocket just yet. So the question I want to ask Lifehackers is what tricks and tips have they got to make sure a vacation period can still be fun whilst at the same time allowing for considerable cost hikes as the AU dollar continues to tank. Thanks, Daniel
While I'm sure our readers will offer plenty of other hints, I reckon the secret to getting the most from an overseas holiday is to book early and pay for stuff in advance whenever possible. Accommodation and travel booked ahead of time is often cheaper than last-minute; attractions and tours aren't always, but it's rare if not impossible to come up with something that's more expensive because you book it in advance. More to the point, if you book something and pay for it on the spot (put it on your credit card and then pay it off immediately), then you know you can afford it at that moment, and you don't have to worry about it selling out. The cost might go up or down depending on what the exchange rate does, but if you figure it's reasonable value, then what difference does it really make? But that's enough from me: let's hear what others have to say in the comments.


    I'm travelling through Italy and London at the end of this year, but thankfully everything except spending money has been paid for. For tourists that didn't prepay, however, there are plenty of cheap or free ways to see a country; perhaps shy away from the big name events and locations and look off the beaten track for some hidden treasures?

    "I was planning a fairly grandiose tour of the US via train"

    FYI - I just returned from the USA a week ago. Prior to leaving, I purchased a USA Rail pass from Amtrak. Since then, the price has risen substantially (lucky I booked it 8 months ago, right?). Anyway, when I went to redeem the rail pass I was told that to do so I would need to pay the difference between the old and new rates (several hundred dollars!) or I could get a refund.

    As my plans were flexible, I opted for the refund, but thought you may want to check with Amtrak prior to departing if you are in a similar situation!


    Snacks and coffees can eat away at your budget, and you won't get a great range of fares on the railways. Purchasing food (even sandwiches) at a supermarket to take you through the day can help enormously. I used to make my own trail-mix from bulk purchases of sultanas/raisins and nuts and carry it in a heavy plastic bag.

    Eeep. Wasn't quite expecting the email to be published but thanks!

    Ben - thanks for the info. Amtrak seems to have entirely scraped the pass I was planning to take and it is indeed substainally more expensive now.

    As for pre-paying I'm finding a lot of US hotels don't seem to want to do it. They'll take my CC details for the booking but won't let me pay for it in advance.

    Majority of the travel is booked and paid for and worst comes to worst I have a few friends I can crash with for a few weeks.

    HI Daniel,

    most of the online travel agencies will allow you to book and pay for hotels in advance. E.g. and allow you to prepay for all hotels in AUD. That probably would have been more useful 6 months ago, but at least it means you can lock in a price in AUD today.

    (Note - I did previously work at Expedia)

    I'm in the same boat, bought my April 09 ticket to South America a cpl months back and have looked on in terror at the crashing aussie value. Just today I read an article on SMH that the dollar could slip to 40 US cents sometime next year (although I'm sceptical - some people just seem hell bent on presenting doom & gloom in all it's glory). Even if it only stays at around 60-70, that's still thousands of my savings lost.

    Thankfully a lot of south america countries don't have great economies either (Chile, Brazil..) and I had over-budgeted for a simple three-month backpacking holiday. A lot of hostels were only $15 US a night so that should only go up to $25 max - no mates to crash with tho, if you can I highly recommend it (don't forget the dossing rules!). I think at this stage though I will have to cut a few things like bunji jumping, white water rafting & sky diving, which sucks a bit but plenty of those things aren't necessary to truly experience a new country. I guess if you can, try to limit your activities to sight-seeing and local entertainment.

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