Home > Personal Finance > Take the Money Stress Out of Vacation With This Travel Checklist

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The vacations we take are often some of the most memorable times in our lives. But they can also be stressful. Leaving your life behind for a few days can be relaxing, but it takes planning and money. Luckily, there are a few basic steps you can take to ensure your vacation is the break you need and not another source of stress. Here are nine tips to follow.

1. Make a Budget

Know what you’ll need to spend. Do your research ahead of time, not only on the cost of travel and accommodations but also your activities and the meals you’ll eat. You may also be able to purchase tickets for certain activities ahead of time this way.

Add up your costs, and you’ll know whether you have enough saved up to afford your itinerary or need to scale back your trip. Check out our tips for saving money fast.

2. Make a Packing List

Don’t deplete your precious vacation budget to buy a rain jacket or swimsuit you forgot to pack. Check your itinerary and the weather forecast ahead of time and lay out exactly what you’ll need to bring. Here’s a list of 13 essentials you should pack.

3. Bring the Right Credit Card

You’re paying enough for your trip without adding foreign transaction fees to every swipe. If you’re not sure whether your card charges these fees, just check the terms and conditions.

If you’re thinking of applying for new plastic, check out a few cards with no foreign transaction fees here. In addition to saving on fees, some cards, especially those affiliated with airlines, will allow you to check your first bag free, among other perks. (Remember, you’ll need a solid credit score for many travel rewards cards. You can check two of your scores free on Credit.com.)

You’ll also want to make sure you know your PIN (or call your issuer to reset it), especially if you’re going to Europe. Many card readers there use a chip-and-PIN system rather than the chip-and-signature system that has become common in the United States.

If you’re going to bring your ATM card, check your bank’s website or call them up to find out whether they have ATM locations in your destination of choice. This way you can avoid paying hefty ATM fees if you need to withdraw cash.

4. Call Your Card Company

You should also call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’re traveling. They’ll be monitoring your card activity and the sudden appearance of purchases in a foreign land may lead them to think your card has been stolen and freeze your card. You don’t want the hassle of having to prove that you’re you while you’re on vacation. Call ahead to avoid it. Many banks and card issuers allow you to set a travel alert online or using their mobile app, as well.

5. Make Sure You’re Covered

Many health insurance plans don’t cover medical expenses while you’re abroad, so if you’re worried about paying for a potential health emergency, you may want to consider buying a travel insurance policy that covers such expenses. Some policies may also cover lost or stolen luggage. Before buying, be sure to check with your own insurer to see what they’ll cover. You should also check your credit card’s terms and conditions. Many offer travel insurance if you paid for the trip using your card.

6. Cover Your Bills

You may be able to ignore work emails for a few days, but you still have to pay your bills. If any payments for utilities, your credit card or rent come due while you’re away, make sure you find a way to pay them ahead of time. While missing one payment probably won’t get your power shut off, a late credit card payment could result in late fees and hefty interest charges. Your landlord won’t be thrilled about a late payment either.

7. Hold Your Mail

Don’t let your mail pile up in your mailbox, especially if it’s not secured. That stack of paper could be a treasure trove for identity thieves. Holding your mail temporarily is as simple as a visit to the Postal Service website. They’ll keep it safe at your local post office until you return.

8. Wait to Change Money

Most likely you’ll get a better exchange rate when you get to your destination. If you’re worried about having local currency once you get off the plane, most airports will have ATMs that offer better exchange rates than the ubiquitous cash-exchange kiosks in tourist areas. Just make sure you followed the earlier advice about calling your bank.

9. Get Your Passport Well Ahead of Time

If you’re going abroad, be sure to apply for your passport (or renew it) at least eight weeks before you leave. If you need it any faster than that, you’ll have to pay for expedited service.

It might seem like a lot of work, but taking these steps should help minimize your money stress before your big trip.

Image: Geber86

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