5 Summer Travel Safety Tips

We’ve got about one month left of summer. Time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it? If you’ve got an upcoming vacation planned, don’t miss these essential summer travel tips.

1. Make copies of important travel documents.
Make copies of your travel itinerary, health insurance cards, credit cards, and passport. Then give the copies to someone you trust in case of an emergency. It’s also smart to email any important information about your trip to yourself before you leave so it’s easily accessible if something gets lost, especially if you’re traveling overseas.

2. Don’t overshare on social media.
Not only do you not want every person with access to your social media accounts to know that you’re away from home (hello, burglars!), you also don’t need your followers (or lurkers) to know where you are in real time. This can invite all kinds of unwanted attention and danger. You should also avoid posting any pictures with personal information, like your boarding pass or passport, to social media. These photos might look fun on Instagram, but they also give cyber predators easy access to your secure data.

3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access financial information or make online purchases. It’s very easy for hackers to steal information from public internet servers. Furthermore, you should never leave your laptop or cell phone in a vulnerable position (i.e. at the breakfast table while you run to the bathroom or on your beach chair while you take a dip). This might seem like common sense, but it’s easy to let your guard down when you’re on island time!

4. Use a prepaid debit card specifically designated for traveling. A prepaid travel card will help you stay within your budget while you’re on vacation and keep your personal information safe. Prepaid travel cards, are not linked to your checking or savings account, so if your card information is compromised, you’ll have less of a mess to clean up down the road. Another bonus: you won’t have to worry about foreign ATM skimmers and various other threats to your financial data while trying to relax on vacation.

5. Research, research, research. It’s important to learn the ins and outs of your destination and do some digging to find out what areas are safe and what areas should be avoided.  A good place to start? Read hotel reviews online to see what neighborhoods and destinations other travelers recommend. If a location seems unsafe or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should leave right away. Download the State Department’s Smart Traveler app (travel.state.gov) and sign up for the State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Above all – enjoy your trip and have fun. Just be prepared before you go and plan ahead!

Article Source: Naomi Anderson for CUInsight.com

Can’t Do a Vacation This Year? 11 Ideas for a Great Staycation

It’s that time of year again. The kids are out of school and you really want to spend time with them and make wonderful memories, but a vacation is out of the question. You can’t get away and, even if you could – it’s way out of your budget.

For a beautiful time creating memories with your loved ones, you need only two days and some imagination. Try these staycation ideas for a grand time (without spending a grand).

1. Hit the road in your own city, armed with cameras and snacks.

If you’d be willing to visit a strange town, pretend yours is just that. If you live in or close to a metropolis, it’s easy — there are always places you don’t often see that should be fun to explore. If you live in a rural area, hit Google Maps and then the road. Fill your time with laughs, snapping goofy pictures everywhere you go.

2. Go on a scavenger hunt.

Make a list for the family and get on the road with clues to help you find everything on it. The more obscure you get, the longer the hunt will take – great for bigger kids, but not so fun for the little ones, so plan accordingly.

3. Go to a motel in a neighboring city.

If your timing is flexible, bid on rooms via Priceline, or try calling and negotiating lower rates with the manager before accepting whatever they offer. After all, the goal is to save while you stay, right?

4. Make it a movie marathon day.

Choose flicks that the whole family can watch together and enjoy. Start after breakfast and have a little family exercise break in between. Oh, and make it a PJ day to really relax and enjoy!

5. Drive to anywhere.

Don’t use a map. Don’t have a destination. Just plan to drive in a direction for X hours, then stop and explore and stay where you are. If you can spend the night, BONUS! If not, that’s okay. Have fun exploring your new locale, taking pictures and snagging souvenirs.

6. Go to a waterpark.

It’s likely that your city or one nearby, has a waterpark. What better excuse to jump in the water than saving money? If you can’t stay on vacation for a week or so, a day at a waterpark may be the next best thing.

7. If you can’t park it, raft it.

River rafting is another amazing excursion, and one that’s often cheaper than waterparks. Check for restrictions on ages if you have little ones, but many river dock rental places have options for the younger clientele too.

8. Go camping.

Even if you can’t head to a nearby mountain range (bonus points if you can!), you can still hang with the neighbors and have a neighborhood camp out at home in the backyard. Or go it alone with just you and your loved ones. Either way, pack up the tent and make a rule to not go inside for anything.

9. Host your own neighborhood field day.

Make it complete with hilarious games and amazing prizes — and don’t forget the pictures! Top off the afternoon with a cook out and ice cream sundaes.

10. Call for a Blackout Day (or weekend).

Turn off all electronic devices for at least 24 hours. Spend the entire day focusing on the fun you’re having with your favorite people.

11. Call in a cleaning service.

Why do we love going on vacation? We love feeling pampered. But if you can’t go and be pampered, bring the pampering home to you. Check Care.com or Craigslist for a cleaning service that’s reasonable. Let them worry about the dusting, sweeping, mopping and bed making for a week.

Article Source: Vincent King for moneyning.com

4 Tips for a Budget-Friendly Plan B Getaway

Maybe you’d like to plan a vacation this summer, but you don’t exactly have several hundred or thousand dollars just laying around right now, not to mention other expenses like meals, souvenirs, and the like. Or perhaps you don’t want to spend your savings on a “non-essential” trip at the moment. Whatever the reason, a “Plan B” getaway can help keep your financial goals on track, and can still be just as fun as an extravagant vacation.

1. Don’t view the decision (or need) to opt for Plan B as a sign of financial failure; see it as setting yourself up for greater financial freedom in the future.

It can be disappointing to pass up your first idea for the perfect getaway, but try to see the positive side: by using wisdom and self-control in the present, you’re positioning your finances to be in the place where you can spend money on the things you enjoy without guilt or debt.

2. Look for frugal travel advice to maximize Plan B and to keep it under budget.

Sure, you’ll save money by not splurging on your first plan, but don’t fall into the mental money trap of anchor price comparison. Even if Plan B looks much cheaper than Plan A, you might end up going over-budget because you think you’re saving money. When you decide where your Plan B destination will take you, browse through Pinterest articles written by people who have visited the destination. Travel websites and blogs are another great resource, and can help you maximize your time and eliminate overly-touristy destinations too.

3. Take a road trip and skip the hotel.

Hotels can be a waste of money unless it’s absolutely necessary to stay overnight. Since you hardly spend any time in the room if you’re sightseeing, you probably won’t be taking advantage of all the amenities you paid for if you book at a nicer hotel. One possible exception is when the hotel is your destination. If that’s your main expenditure, then by all means, enjoy your luxury!

Day trips are another idea. It might mean getting up a little earlier, driving home a little later, and drinking a few extra espressos, but you’ll save money and be more motivated to fit in the most meaningful experiences you can.

Don’t think there’s anything interesting enough within a day’s journey of where you live? Check out your state’s tourism website and see if there’s something you might have missed.

4. Take to nature — it’s free.

Minus the fees you might need to pay for admission to a state or national park, nature is free and much more personal than a cookie-cutter tourist experience.

Planning a budget-friendly getaway means getting a little creative and doing a little research, but these very things could ultimately lead to an experience of a lifetime. In the end, it’s not how much you spend on a vacation that makes it’s great – it’s the memories you make.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com

Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com

How to Enjoy Your Tropical Vacation While On a Budget

Just because you are watching your money closely, doesn’t mean you can’t travel to a luxury resort without breaking the bank. Here are a few ways you can have a luxury tropical vacation (or an incredible honeymoon), without going broke.

Go to the grocery.

Stopping by a local grocery store for food and beverages could be critical to saving money. Like many other locales, resorts in the Caribbean are known to be extremely pricey. With a simple bike ride to the store, you could save tremendously on necessities for a week’s stay. For example, instead of eating every meal at expensive restaurants, if your room has a full kitchen, you can buy items to cook for lunch and plan to only eat dinners out instead.

Walk (or bike), don’t ride.

Instead of paying for a taxi every time you need to travel around town, either walk or ride the bikes provided by your resort. Also, renting a car for getting around town can be pricey too. So, by walking and biking instead of riding, you save money and also get some exercise.

Listen to the locals.

Locals working at your resort may know about events going on in town, that are hosted by the local tourism department – which may be worthwhile for you to attend. You will just want to confirm with your resort’s concierge, that you are in a safe area/country before leaving your resort to attend an offsite event. At these events, you might be able to find great food at low prices, and inexpensive souvenirs handmade by local merchants. By listening to suggestions of those from the area, you can get a glimpse of the local culture, and save greatly on food, drinks, and gifts.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com

The Best Times to Buy Airfare

Surprisingly, there’s no difference in airfare whether buying a ticket on a Sunday, Tuesday or any other day of the week. The cheapest fares are typically found when you book about 70 days before departure.

Bargain shopping? Try to monitor airfares for travel routes during the prime booking window (4 months to 3 weeks before leaving). Destination discount fare alerts can be set up on such sites as Hipmunk.com, Airfarewatchdog.com, GoogleFlights.com or an app like Hopper. The one factor that plays a significant role in price is the time of year you plan to travel.

Here are some tips on when to buy flights for each season:

Summer

The best summer deals are in August and September, with late summer offering the lowest prices overall.

  • The average best time to buy is 47 days (about 1.5 months) in advance.
  • Prime Booking Window is 14 – 160 days (2 weeks – 5 months) from travel.

Fall

If you’re traveling in the fall (excluding Thanksgiving), you can usually wait a bit longer to book air tickets and still not miss out on the good prices.

  • The best time to buy is 69 days out
  • Prime Booking Window is 21 – 100 days from travel.

Winter

Here are tips for general (non-holiday) winter travel.

  • 62 days from your expected travel date is the best time to buy an affordable airline ticket in the winter months.
  • Prime Booking Window is 21 – 110 days from travel.

Spring

With Spring Break dates spanning March through April, finding a good deal in the spring can be challenging.

  • Exactly 3 months (90 days) from your travel date on average is the window to buy best airfare for spring air travel.
  • Prime Booking Window is 46 – 122 days from travel.

Happy vacationing!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com