Advice / Succeeding at Work / Money

Buy or Borrow? Money-Saving Tips for International Travel

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Planning an international getaway? You’re probably crafting your packing list—and realizing how much you still need to purchase. But don’t panic just yet—you don’t actually have to pay for everything you put in that suitcase—or even the suitcase itself!

A great way to save money on travel expenses is borrowing some of the essentials from family and friends. Here’s a quick guide to what you should invest in and what you can get away with borrowing for your next trip.

Luggage: Borrow

You may already own a wheeled Samsonite, but keep in mind that international airlines often have different size and weight restrictions than U.S. carriers. So if the suitcase you own won’t work, ask around for a light wheeler that meets your airline’s requirements to avoid unnecessary airline fees, and put the $200 you’d invest in new luggage toward other expenses.

Luggage Locks: Buy

These inexpensive devices will provide some piece of mind as you’re carting your luggage around abroad. Just buy them—they’re only about $10 each, and the chances that your friends will have both sets of the keys they come with are pretty slim. Plus, the number of locks you’ll need depends on the number of zipper pairs on your luggage.

DSLR Camera: Borrow

Your point-and-shoot will work fine for your Facbeook profile pics, but if you want high-resolution, quality photos to grace your walls, a DSLR camera is a worthwhile item to pack. But unless you’re a budding photographer, borrow it: A good camera can set you back about $500, which doesn’t include the various lenses and equipment.


Plug Converters: Buy

Ensure you can recharge your electronic devices—and avoid frying them—by having the right converters. Outlets in foreign countries are not only often different shapes, but they frequently supply a higher voltage, which will damage your electronics if you plug them right into the wall. If you can find a multi-country converter, borrow it, but otherwise, buy a few for the specific country you’re headed to. They’re cheap (about $5 each) and easy to find at retailers like Radio Shack or on Amazon.


Crossbody Handbag: Buy or Borrow

Seasoned travelers will tell you the importance of having your purse in sight and in front of you at all times. But buy this item only if you like it enough to give it a permanent spot in your handbag rotation—otherwise, borrow one from a friend. I love the LeSportsac crossbody bags for their lightweight design and fun prints (prices range from $40-$90).

Travel Books: Buy

Having accurate and detailed information at your fingertips and in one place is essential to maximizing your vacation—and fact is you can’t always count on your smartphone’s services to be reliable when you’re abroad. Since information like prices and hours of operation often change from year to year, don’t borrow books unless they’re the current edition. The $20 (on average) you’ll spend is a worthwhile investment. Besides, it’s just not cool to highlight and underline in someone else’s pages.


City Maps: Free!

With the possible exception of an electronic tablet or smartphone, a detailed city map is the most essential item you’ll need for finding your way around (travel books usually only offer general area maps). But no need to buy or borrow—most hotels and hostels offer detailed city maps that include vital info like mass transit routes and major attractions—for free! Ask for them when you check into your hotel.

Now get packing! And of course, whenever you borrow a travel essential from a friend, remember to show your appreciation. Bring back a souvenir or treat your donor to a meal when you’re back, and share your memorable joys and mishaps.

Happy travels!

Photo courtesy of Anaa Yoo.