Your personal financial situation is likely one of the last things you want to think about while you’re trying to relax on vacation. This is supposed to be your time away from your day-to-day concerns. But, even on your much-needed vacation, you should be financially responsible and save money where you can. But, despite best efforts, many people make money mistakes when planning and while enjoying their vacation.

Consider these common mistakes and tips for avoiding them.

Pay Attention to the Details

Planning a trip can be fun, but the details of setting up the perfect itinerary, packing all the right clothes and accessories, and maintaining your personal financial concerns can be stressful even for experienced travelers.

Budgeting for your vacation is always good advice, but according to a survey Experian conducted, many people tend to budget for the bigger items (airfare, hotel, car rental, maybe attractions) and forget to include all the little things that together can make up a big portion of your expenses. When researching your trip, think of smartphone charges (especially for data and international roaming), tolls, parking, snacks, gift-buying, bank fees, tips — do they even tip where you’re going? — and departure taxes, which USA Today reports Japan just instituted in 2019. Think about what you spend money on every day at home and how that might translate to travel.

Try to Avoid Traveler’s Checks

Growing up, you may have heard that traveler’s checks are the best way to pay for things in other countries. While that may have been the case years ago, today’s travelers have more options that may be just as secure and potentially more affordable with reduced fees and exchange rates. These days, credit cards are accepted more widely than ever, and since some credit card issuers offer benefits like no international transaction fees, it can be very affordable to use credit for your travel needs. Plus, as NerdWallet points out, the security of traveler’s checks can’t beat the fraud protection provided by your credit card.

Don’t Forget: Exchange Rates Can Vary

When you’re traveling internationally, it’s important to know what the currency exchange rates are before you go on your trip, and you should also be aware that you may get worse rates in certain situations. For instance, according to NerdWallet, exchanging cash at those convenient airport kiosks will typically charge you an unfavorable rate, so either obtain cash from your bank before leaving or simply get cash at a regional ATM once you arrive. When you make purchases with a credit card, you’ll likely get a less favorable rate if you request to pay in your own currency, like U.S. dollars, rather than the local currency, says Forbes.

Be Aware of Airline Travel Myths

“Tickets are always cheaper on Tuesdays” is an old wives’ tale that’s been debunked. Instead, plan, plan, plan. Consider turning your itinerary into a money-saving project. Many trip-planning websites allow you to set price alerts for chosen destinations, so you don’t have to feel uneasy about whether you’re getting a good deal or not. And some airlines offer discounted rates for taking connecting flights instead of nonstop. You might even be able to include hotel and car rental reservations with a package that costs less than it would if you had booked each element separately.

Have any travel points saved up on your credit card, like the Discover it Miles card? Maybe it’s time to use those points instead of cash. The Airlines Reporting Corporation puts out a report each year with tips like these and other topics you might not have considered, like what day of the week is the best choice for departure.

Don’t Fly By the Seat of Your Pants – Plan Ahead

Pick up snacks at local stores before you go out for the day, and bring refillable water bottles to save money and keep disposable plastic out of landfills. Pack a first-aid kit — the CDC has some guidelines for this — with over-the-counter medications for pain and allergies so you don’t have to search for a pharmacy at 2 a.m. and pay outrageous prices.

Taking a longer trip? Try searching “[product] buy local or bring” to see what reputable travel sites advise. Compare the costs of renting a car versus taking taxis or other ride services everywhere, and don’t forget to count gas and parking.

If all else fails, a day off from work, a nice meal and that movie you’ve been meaning to watch could be the cheapest vacation of all. Especially if you’re putting the costs on your credit card and earning points to your next actual vacation.


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