It’s summer, and you’re going on vacation! Your transportation is booked, and your hotel is paid for. But you still want to save money while you’re away from home. Here are some tips and tricks to maximize your fun while minimizing your expenses:
Determine if travel insurance is right for you. You probably already have some insurance coverage through your homeowner’s or renters policy, and possibly through a credit card if you used one to pay for travel-related expenses. However, under some circumstances, it may make sense to purchase additional travel insurance. For instance, if you are traveling abroad, you should check to see if your health insurance coverage applies at your destination. Travel insurance may make sense depending on your age, your health, and your planned activities. Be sure to research and, if you decide it’s right for you, purchase coverage before your trip.
Pack light. You don’t want to forget anything, but you don’t want to over-pack either. Many airlines charge for checked baggage, and even the ones that don’t usually only give you one free checked bag. Airlines also have weight limits on checked baggage, and you’ll have to pay extra if your bag is over the weight limit. Even if you’re driving instead of flying, extra baggage will weigh down your vehicle and reduce your fuel economy.
Know your ATM network. Most financial institutions are part of an ATM network, which lets you use ATM’s that don’t belong to your specific institution without additional charge. Be sure you know what your institution’s network is, and how to find in-network ATM’s at your destination so you can avoid paying any hefty fees. If you are traveling far from home, and especially if you are traveling abroad, you should inform your bank so they don’t block transactions for suspicion of fraudulent activity. And remember, cash advances from your credit card should be a last resort because of the exorbitant interest rate that generally attaches to them.
Know your membership benefits. Many memberships have benefits that aren’t limited to your immediate area. For example, your local museum and zoo memberships may also give you access to museums and zoos in other cities. Don’t forget to check your AAA and credit cards for admission, restaurant, and other discounts (many have an app so you can check for discounts while you’re out and about).
Plan your meals. Eating in your hotel room is a great way to save money, and since dinner is usually more expensive than lunch, you might try to eat in more at dinner and enjoy lunch out. You can save even more by doing your marketing where the locals shop to avoid the tourist markup, and being open to trying local foods that may be less expensive.
Look for free activities. Google will be your best friend in finding free activities that you can do at your destination, but if you have any friends or acquaintances in the area, be sure to ask for suggestions. Another great resource is the web site for the city or jurisdiction you are visiting, and/or its chamber of commerce. These sites are likely to list any local festivals, street fairs, etc.
Limit souvenirs. It’s always fun to bring home souvenirs, but they can be expensive. A satisfying way to limit souvenirs is to collect a specific type of item from each locale you visit. For example, you might collect T-shirts with the name of the place you visited on the front, snow globes featuring the city you visited, or some other item that’s significant to you. Since you’re limiting yourself to one item per destination, it should be easy to keep the cost in check.
Call home for free or cheap. Check your cell phone coverage to see if you will be charged additional fees to call home from your destination. Skype is a popular alternative to costly traditional calls. If you and the person you are calling both have iOS devices, you should be able to use Facetime to communicate for free.
If you’re traveling abroad, get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and chip and PIN technology. Most credit cards will charge a foreign transaction fee to convert your purchase from the local currency to dollars. However, there are cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees so be sure that you have one while traveling abroad. You should also make sure the card is equipped with chip and PIN technology, since in some countries, these cards are more readily accepted than cards that only have a magnetic strip.