Educator profile

Life Lessons Learned on Tour: Money Management

Emily is a high school Spanish teacher who first started traveling with EF in 2006. She is passionate about providing her students with first-hand global experiences and helping new group leaders successfully plan tours for their students. In this series, Life Lessons on Tour, Emily shares the wisdom and practical knowledge that she has gained from traveling over the past ten years.

For many students, traveling on tour serves as one of the first (if not the first) times that they are held completely responsible for managing their own money. For students, this is a huge, but critical, learning experience to have during their middle school and high school years.

From maintaining a budget to navigating exchange rates, traveling on tour provides many opportunities for students to learn lifelong money management skills. While this may sound like a daunting lesson to tackle while traveling, the good news is that with a little bit of guidance and preparation your students can become pros before even stepping off the plane!

Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind as you prepare to travel:

1. Always communicate with your bank! Your bank is there to help you manage and protect your money. If you are traveling to a new city or country, be sure to let them know so they don’t flag your account for suspicious activity as soon as you start making purchases. It is also important to note that banks have varying international transaction fees. Be sure to inquire about this ahead of time so you don’t get hit with any surprise fees.

2. Keep some cash on hand and have a few payment options – In addition to bringing a credit or debit card with you, a good rule of thumb is to also travel with cash. Plan to bring about $50 cash in American currency and about $50-$100 worth of the local currency (if you’re traveling abroad) before boarding your flight.
*If you’re thinking of using Travelers Checks, you may want to reconsider as these are no longer widely accepted while traveling abroad.


3. Pre-determine a suitable daily budget and stick to it – There is nothing like setting aside a certain amount of money and spending it all on souvenirs the first day abroad. Determine a daily budget before heading out on tour. Plan for about $10-$15 USD a day on lunches (unless you are traveling on an itinerary where lunches are included), $10 a day on tipping, and then some additional money for souvenirs or last minute optional activities your Tour Director may recommend.

4. Research exchange rates – Consider printing exchange rate wallet cards to help keep track of how much you are actually spending.
*The website I use for this is

5. Prepare for ATMs – Don’t assume that all travelers know how to use them! Practice withdrawing money from an ATM before heading out. Trust me, it will save some time down the line!

6. Keep your money safe on tour – Decide on a few separate zippered compartments to store your money while on tour. Never leave your money visible to passerby’s and be on alert for pickpockets in crowded areas.

Preparing your money management tactics on tour ahead of time will make any obstacle you may encounter easier to solve. Most importantly, remember to stay cool, calm and collected if unexpected bumps pop up along the way! It is all a learning experience.

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