When Money Gets Wasted on the Road

When we picked up our rental car in Dublin we already knew we'd be spending a lot of money for the privilege of driving around for three weeks: the bill was over €1,000 and the cheapest fuel we've found was €1.48 a litre. What we didn't expect was that the staff member behind the counter would cost us extra money because he didn't listen. We use a special reloadable debit card while travelling that allows us to spend money in the local currencies. This saves thousands of dollars in conversion fees over the course of a long trip.

Photo by nacu of MorgueFile

When asked to provide a credit card for payment we handed over the debit card. The staff member initially refused the card, saying that he couldn't take payment with those types of cards. We discussed the reason and learned that he needed to also take a pre-authorization on a card in case of an accident. So we presented our regular credit card for the pre-authorization and asked that the charge for the use of the vehicle go on the debit card. This was accompanied by a clear explanation of why we wanted to use the debit card for payment: it's cheaper for us because we can pay in euros instead of Australian dollars. The charge, we emphasized, should be made in euros.

Did he listen? No. When we checked our online statement a few days later we found that we'd been charged in Australian dollars, wiping out our careful planning and care to avoid well over a hundred dollars in currency conversion fees. Poor customer service cost us what we consider to be a decent amount of money. It's difficult to not become angry when things like this happen. But this year we've found that money gets wasted all the time when travelling. It just comes with the territory.

What else cost us big time this year? Escaping bad hostel situations by moving to a hotel, changing our minds about what destinations we would fly to instead of taking the bus (we could have had these included in our round-the-world ticket), money spent on activities that we didn't enjoy, over priced restaurant food, paying for things when we didn't have to (parking, tips)...this list goes on and on. When we're travelling we often come up against situations that cost more than they would if we weren't in a foreign country. Now that we're in Europe we have to be extra careful with money - everything is dear here.

My question for you fellow travellers is: do things like this happen to you too? How do you feel about it? What are your tricks for avoiding holes in your wallet? We try to stay flexible and not worry too much about cash matters because negative thinking can really put a damper on our enjoyment of travel. But we can't help being annoyed when we waste precious money needlessly.

How do you guard against wasting money on the road? In what ways have your careful plans to save been foiled?

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9 years ago

We had some unexpected expenses come up recently relating to our car rental in Ireland, too.  Everything there seemed to be more expensive than I had planned (and our exchange rate with the Euro was actually better than it had been last time we were in Europe!)

Reply to  Shanna

We felt like Ireland was REALLY expensive. Especially restaurant meals, attractions and accommodation. I wasn’t expecting that either.

9 years ago

Great article. I hate wasting money as well, but I suppose you just have to shake it off and learn from the experience so it doesn’t happen again. I have a suggestion about an alternative to the debit cards you are using. I’m not sure about cards in Australia, but in the US we have cards from, Chase Sapphire for an example, that give you zero foreign transaction fees and the best exchange rate available at the time of use. Along with great protection/insurance while using the card, you get 50,000 flight miles (got me a free $1K plane ticket) for joining.… Read more »

Reply to  Sean Webb

Thanks, Sean. We determined about halfway through the year last year that the travel money card product we were using was not the right fit for us. It is good to know about these new cards that are traveller-friendly, should we need to get another one in the future.

9 years ago

Ugh, how frustrating. I totally get this! I travel with my kids and find that we tend to waste money most when we don’t have a good plan about where to eat. Even after years of traveling (a lot) with them, my husband and I still fall into the trap of sometimes letting them get too hungry and tired without a good plan for a meal and then having to take what’s available. On the flip side of this, I’ve been working hard to remember to take advantage of my own museum memberships. It’s amazing to me how often I… Read more »

Reply to  Mara Gorman

Agggh – I hate the nightly search for dinner sometimes. We try to ask for suggestions from the hotel or hostel but this often ends up in a search for the specific place they are talking about and other people’s suggestions don’t often suit us, especially if we are staying in budget accommodation. And if it’s high season forget it…you’ll pay top dollar for frozen food. I know I could cook but we’re not always in a hostel with a kitchen and it can be just as expensive after all the ingredients are purchased. Memberships are awesome! Which ones do… Read more »

9 years ago

I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been traveling (slightly unplanned) for 5-6 months now & I’m used to budgetting for 2 week trips! I’ve been trying to figure out how to budget better but basically, my habit is to go large on spending on the small things.  It’s those cheap & little things that’s gotten to add up for me. I’m actually a bit ashamed at how much my monthly bills come to.


It’s so hard not to be ashamed, isn’t it!? We had a big spending day today and have just gotten in the habit of saying, “Oh well, that’s what happens when you travel,” but I do NOT ever want someone to show me a statement of expenditures for this year.

9 years ago

On my most recent trip it was the ATM fees and on a few occasions, paying double or triple for food– I knew I could get it cheaper elsewhere in another location that I was inconveniently far from  at that moment.  It always makes my food a little less enjoyable!

Reply to  Claire

I agree! It always ruins food a bit when it’s over priced…if I leave full and satisfied I can get over it, but I hate those tiny plates that cost a fortune and then you’re still hungry!

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