Globetrotting 101 – Part 4 by Elaine Lee

Managing Money

My no-frills trip cost about $6,000, including transportation, in 1992. My out-of-pocket expenses varied from $500-$1,000 a month (which would be about $700-$1,500 a month today).

Europe was five to 10 times more expensive than Africa and Asia. Many people have told me that traveling with a partner would have cost less (because you can split the costs of lodging), but of course traveling with a partner can also cost more because you are less likely to be invited to stay in someone’s home.

I took $500 worth of Euros (since France was my first foreign stop), an American Express card, a debit card, and a MasterCard. I wish I had taken a supply of U.S. dollars in ones and fives because many non-European people like to do business in dollars and give much better prices when they see U.S. cash. I discovered it’s cheaper and easier to use my debit card to get cash than to hassle with traveler’s checks (you get the best exchange rate and are charged a low transaction fee).

I asked a trusted friend to handle my finances while I was gone (it’s also possible to use a bonded bookkeeper or financial manager), and I prepared detailed instructions for her. I had a rubber stamp made so she could endorse and deposit my incoming checks.

I set up an automatic payment system to cover the minimum payment due on my MasterCard each month. I also made arrangements so that my MasterCard would pick up possible overdrafts on my checking account. I paid off all my other bills with the exception of my mortgage, for which I wrote out checks to have the person handling my finances mail monthly. I took several personal checks to mail back to cover unexpected expenses that arose at home.
I gave my friend an itinerary with contact names, set up a phone messaging service and registered with the American Embassy in many of the countries I visited for more than a week.

Excerpt from “Go Girl! The Black Woman’s Book of Travel & Adventure.”