Travel and Money
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
I don’t know about you, but after all the spring storms and tornadoes over the past few weeks here in Oklahoma, I’m ready for vacation. Whether you go boating at the local lake, take a road trip, or jet set to a foreign country, you need to keep control over your travel budget. Here are some financial tips to help you enjoy your vacation.
Create a travel budget
List all of your expected expenses: transportation costs (airline tickets, rental car, gas, taxis and shuttles), hotels, meals, entertainment expenses, and souvenirs. Share this budget with everyone in the family. You can save money by staying at hotels that offer free breakfast and free meals for kids.
Find deals before you leave
Book hotel reservations online and look for any promotions and discounts. If you feel comfortable pre-paying, you may be able to save a good bit off your total bill. Websites such as www.priceline.com and www.hotels.com may offer hefty discounts on rooms depending on when and where you are traveling. Also check for discounts on admission to theme parks, zoos, museums, and other entertainment venues before you leave.
Many rental car companies offer last minute discounts in certain cities or areas. Remember to “re-shop” the rate just before leaving.
Get bills in order before you leave
Don’t forget to pay pending bills before you leave on vacation. If you are going to be gone for a while, look into paying bills online. You may be able to setup a time when the automatic transaction takes place.
You need to do more planning for an international vacation. Here is a list of helpful tips:
- Leave copies of your passport and your credit cards (with the customer service numbers) with someone you trust in case these items get lost or stolen.
- It’s a good idea to take 2 credit cards with you. A merchant may only honor certain cards. Use the credit card that charges the lower foreign exchange fee. Also, you should notify your credit card companies of your travel plans. This way if they see you have a bunch of charges from Sidney, Australia, they will know you are enjoying shrimp on the barbie and not assume your credit card number was stolen and being used fraudulently.
- Find out if your cell phone will work outside the U.S. – if you can “unlock” your phone than you can avoid expensive roaming charges. Check to see if your plan provider offers an international calling plan. Don’t forget a power converter so you can charge your phone. You can also rent phones. For more tips, check out these websites by USA Today and international traveler Rick Steves. Be sure to read this story: British teen hit with $6000 bill using Facebook during NYC vacation.
- You will need access to cash. Today, pre-paid debit cards have replaced travelers’ checks. Make sure you understand the fees you will be charged and if these cards will be accepted in the country you are visiting.
- Depending on where and how long you are traveling, you may need to register with the U.S. Department of State. It’s a good idea to check the agency’s website for country-specific information, travel alerts and travel warnings.
- If you are taking expensive equipment, such as cameras and computers, you should register them with U.S. Customs (now called U.S. Customs and Border Protection) before you go. This way you don’t have to explain to someone that you did not buy that fancy video camera in Rome so you don’t have to pay customs duty. Visit their website http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/ for forms and more information.
- Make sure you have health insurance coverage.
- Use the safe at the hotel to leave valuables.
- Use common sense while sightseeing. Don’t wear a lot of jewelry and avoid putting money in outside pockets. Stay out of crowds where thieves can target you easily.
With a little bit of planning, you can leave on your vacation with peace of mind. That way, all you need to worry about is remembering what day of the week it is.