Before you head off to the beach or (elsewhere), here are seven tips to help you prepare
Ah, summer… when sun, fun, and travel are often on the schedule. Before heading off on your dream vacation, however, there a few steps you can take to make your vacation less stressful. Here are seven useful tips for traveling this summer, or anytime.
Before you go, alert your bank, credit card companies, and other financial institutions. You’ve just spotted the perfect memento of your trip and pull out your credit card to pay, only to have it declined, or possibly frozen, due to potential fraud detection. This is a frustrating, but usually avoidable, scenario. Before you go away, check online and see if you need to notify financial institutions of your plans. You may not need to do anything. American Express, for example, states that you do not need to inform them because they use “industry-leading fraud detection capabilities that help us recognize when our Card Members are traveling, so you don’t need to notify us before you travel.” Similarly, the Capital One website states: “You don’t need to notify us about your travel plans anymore thanks to the added security of your Capital One chip card. You can use your card abroad the same as you use it at home.” If you do need to notify your financial institutions, many allow you to easily do this online.
Bring more than one form of payment and keep an eye on currency exchange. Different destinations have different payment infrastructures. Some places accept Amex and various debit card networks, while others take only Visa or MasterCard. In addition, while on your trip, you might misplace one of your cards. Bring more than one type of credit card with you, just in case. And bring your ATM card, so you can access cash. If you’re traveling internationally, the cheapest currency exchange is often attained by withdrawing funds directly from an ATM. (Try to avoid currency exchange kiosks that offer unattractive exchange rates and charge high transaction fees.) Check with your bank, however, to see what type of foreign ATM withdrawal fee you will incur. In most developed country destinations, you will be able to use cards for most payments, so the need for local currency is minimal.
Stay current on paying your bills. You may forget about your bills, but they don’t forget about you. If you pay bills online, make sure they are all set to pay, either automatically or manually. Otherwise, get those checks in the mail before you leave. Don’t let one trip ruin your good credit! And while you’re paying your bills, check to see if your cell provider offers a pre-paid roaming plan for your destination. You may be able to buy a temporary data/voice plan for a set dollar amount up front, rather than being shocked at massive roaming charges when you return. Using Wi-Fi data and calling, where available, can be a lower cost option.
Prepare and protect your phone/iPad for travel. Making your electronic devices travel-ready so that they are most useful and protected to minimize the risk to your personal or organization data is an important topic that deserves its own article. Here are two that address these questions from two angles:
Make sure important documents are up to date and key contacts can reach you. Make sure insurance policies, wills, and other legal documents are up to date and reflect your latest intentions. Let your trusted legal, financial, and other advisors know that you are traveling and how they can reach you or, in your absence, a designated contact. If you do designate someone in your absence with the authority to make decisions on your behalf, make sure the legal documents are in place to do so.
Take inventory… of your wallet. While no one likes to envision anything bad happening, things do get lost or stolen. Just in case, make a copy – or take a picture on your phone – of your credit cards, driver’s license, passport, and travel insurance documents. Keep those copies in a room safe, or some other secure place, while you are traveling. If you lose your passport, taking a copy of it to the closest US Embassy/Consulate is the quickest way of replacing it. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it, but if you do, this preparation will make a difficult time much less stressful by simplifying the process of cancellation and replacement.
Understand your insurance coverage. While it may be unlikely you’ll need it, make sure you check to see what kind of travel-related coverage you have through your P&C insurance, healthcare benefits, and credit cards. Verify those benefits extend to travel outside the country, if necessary. Premium credit cards often come with things like rental car damage coverage, and access to reasonably priced travel insurance. But check the fine print. Travel insurance policies often don’t cover you if you simply “change your mind.” They may require a catastrophic weather event or act of war in the destination country to actually reimburse you for the lost travel expenses.