It seems to be a rule of holidays that no matter how much spending money you bring, sooner or later you always need more! Judging your travel money budget is tough: you usually only have a rough idea of how much things cost in your destination country, and any number of unexpected holiday events can have you getting through your cash quicker than anticipated.
However, taking too much money can be just as bad. Major tourist areas tend to attract pickpockets – and even without the help of thieves, it always seems far easier than usual to lose your wallet or bag behind while on holiday. Losing a lot of money on holiday can be devastating, especially as there's very little chance you'll see it again.
Of course, you'll usually just withdraw money from ATMs as normal while you're over there – but you'll incur conversion charges that can really stack up. It can be better for your bank balance to either take the cash you need over there, or transfer money onto a prepaid card. You can also get special credit cards designed for overseas trips.
Prepaid credit or debit cards can be a great way to reduce charges for withdrawing money, and if you top up a prepaid card in advance when the exchange rate is good, you've effectively "locked in" that better rate for yourself. However, they're rarely completely fee-free: always be sure to check the conditions of a prepaid card to make sure you're not being charged each time you use it abroad.
If you're going away for a while and you'll need a lot of spending money, a good option is to arrange a safety deposit box with your hotel. This way you can safely drop your bundle of cash off with them and take what you need on a day-to-day basis – no withdrawal fees there, although some hotels may charge you for the safety deposit box.
So how much is enough? First of all, work out how much of your spending's already taken care of: have you already booked and paid for any activities? Have you hired a car or ordered tickets for local public transport? Is your accommodation room-only or does it include any meals?
Once you know these things, it's easier to figure out your daily spending by adding up a rough cost for any extra meals, travel and activities: a bit of internet research should tell you what to expect price-wise in your destination for all of these things (don't forget petrol money if you're hiring a car!) As long as you stick to your budget and avoid the temptation to splash out too often, you should have enough to cover your holiday.
That said, when you think you know how much spending money you'll need, it's always best to add a bit extra to make sure you're covered against anything that could happen. Any cash you don't spend could go towards souvenirs and gifts, or just brought home with you and converted back into sterling.
Find out more about our travel money services here.