It’s that time of year again. College students across the country are pouring over brochures and making travel plans. It’s spring break season and getting out of town to have some fun before finals sounds like the perfect way to end a long year of study. Maybe it’s a cruise on the high seas, a beach to bake in the sun, or an exotic locale to explore. No matter what the destination, students will get a lot of advice on the do’s and don’ts of travel. So let me add a few more words of wisdom every traveler should think about before hopping a plane, train, or automobile.
Contact your bank, especially if you plan to leave the country. Let them know where you’ll be traveling. Banks monitor debit and credit card activity for unusual activity to prevent fraud. By informing your bank ahead of time, you can ensure uninterrupted access to your accounts while enjoying your break.
Review any credit cards you have for additional benefits. Take advantage of free offers of travel and auto insurance coverage when the card is used for the purchase or rental. You can pay the balance off with your next bill and save money on these add-on expenses.
Take only the credit or debit cards that you need with you. Leave the rest at home. Make a list of all card numbers you do take, along with the customer service phone numbers, and keep the information in a safe place in case your wallet is lost or stolen. It will save you time tracking down these important numbers and reduce the time a thief has to commit fraud. It also lets you get back to enjoying your trip faster.
Not everywhere will accept your cards, so it’s good to have back-up funds handy. Consider carrying traveler’s checks. This may seem old-fashioned to some, but traveler’s checks can be exchanged for cash, including foreign currency, as needed and can be replaced quickly if lost or stolen.
And last but most importantly, set a budget. Unless you’re lucky enough to have unlimited funds, know how much you can afford to spend before you leave. Don’t get caught up in the fun and excitement and pull out a debit or credit card to pay the bill unless you know your limit. If you are leaving the country, don’t forget to factor in currency exchange rates and the fees charged by card companies for currency conversion on debit and credit purchases. Fees can even be charged when using U.S. dollars outside of the U.S. – like on a cruise in international waters.
Spring break can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so plan well and enjoy!
Do any of you veteran spring breakers have any tips or guidance to share?