Vacation is a time to unplug and relax, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to drop the ball on financial security. From maintaining a tight travel budget to protecting yourself from credit fraud, theft and missed bills, it’s important to head into your next trip with a smart financial protection plan. Here are 10 ways to prepare your finances before, during and after traveling.
1. Set your budget beforehand
Before booking plane tickets or a hotel room, it’s vital to map out your overall vacation budget. How much can you afford to spend? Come up with a reasonable number and build in some wiggle room in case anything unpredictable happens along the way. If your budget is tight, get some frugal vacation inspiration from this list of cheap travel ideas.
2. Notify card companies before leaving
If you’ll be racking up charges on your debit or credit card over a short period of time, it’s a good idea to notify your bank or credit card company beforehand to avoid any disruptions in service. This is especially important if you are traveling internationally, as there can be additional fees or steps to take beforehand. If you rely on prepaid cards, review these tips for protecting prepaid debit cards before you go.
3. Arrange to pay the bills while you’re away
Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean mortgage, insurance and utility payments go on vacation, too. Before you leave, do a bit of housekeeping by scheduling your payments online or backdating paper checks and dropping them in the mail. Otherwise, you’ll come home to the unpleasant surprise of late fees.
4. Don’t bring too much cash
It’s never a good idea to bring large sums of cash while traveling. While there are measures you can take if you lose a credit or debit card, in most cases when cash is gone, it’s gone. Take out enough cash to handle immediate transactions and use your debit card (or prepaid debit card) to replenish cash funds as necessary.
5. Don’t bring all of your cards
While it can be a good idea to bring a second credit or debit card as backup (in case your primary card is lost, stolen or damaged), it’s never a good idea to bring all of your cards when you travel. Losing one card is bad enough.
6. Separate important items
If your credit cards, cash, passport, personal documents and cell phone are all in one bag and that bag is stolen, you’re out of luck. By strategically placing some items in your carry on, money belt or with a companion, you’ll lessen the chances that everything of value will disappear at once.
7. Bring emergency cancellation numbers
In the event that your credit or debit cards, personal documents or other items are stolen, you’ll want to have the phone numbers to take immediate action. This may include customer service lines for your bank, credit card company, airline or cell carrier. In the event that something is lost or stolen, the sooner you call to cancel, the better.
8. Track travel expenses via online banking
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your spending while you’re on the go. Check into your online banking system daily to ensure that you are sticking to your predetermined budget, and that there are no unusual charges on your account. If your banking institution does not offer online account tracking, check out these budgeting apps as an alternative.
9. Save your receipts
Saving receipts is a great way to keep track of expenses no matter where you are. When you’re on vacation and spending money at businesses you’re unfamiliar with, it’s even more important to track spending. Plus, if you need to dispute charges later, receipts will be essential.
10. Lock valuable items in hotel safe
Fortunately, many hotels offer locked safes in rooms. Before heading out to explore, lock up any items of value (laptop, personal documents, jewelry). It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when you’re on the road.
If the high cost of traveling is keeping you and your family at home this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t relax. Check out our staycation ideas for ways to have fun and unplug without boarding a plane.