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Travel Prep: 10 Financial To-Dos Before Going on a Trip

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 GOBankingRates

2015-08-26-1440606508-5366801-saving_money_on_travel.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-08-26-1440606508-5366801-saving_money_on_travel.jpg By Caroline Hailey, Contributor
While people may disagree on many topics, there's one thing that most all of us can agree on: vacations are great. Some of us prefer big cities or public beaches, while others seek out quiet countrysides or towering mountains. Whatever your vacation dreams happen to be, it's important to plan your trip so it goes smoothly.
Travel experts and financial advisors recommend this to-do list as you plan a trip:

1. Make a Budget

There's nothing worse than planning a trip, then realizing too late in the process that you can't afford it. Research your costs online to make sure your desired location is affordable. Secure lodging and transportation as early as you can. Get an idea of how much you'll spend on daily activities, like eating and entertainment.
RelatedHow to Save Money for Vacation From 11 Travel Experts

2. Check Out Foreign Transaction Fees

If your plans include foreign travel, make sure you don't get hosed by foreign transaction fees. Irina Vishnevskaya, founder of allé travel, a custom traveling planning service, says travelers should contact their credit card issuer early to find out whether they charge transaction fees in a foreign country, and if so, how much. Generally, fees range from 1 percent to 3 percent of the purchase amount. However, there are cards that promise no foreign transaction fees. So plan this aspect out weeks or months before your trip to give yourself a chance to apply and receive one of those cards.

3. Alert Your Bank to Travel Plans

Once you've made your travel plans, contact your bank or credit card provider with your itinerary, recommended Barry Choi, a personal finance and budget travel expert at Your card could be flagged or frozen if the issuer suspects fraudulent activity in a foreign land. So head off potential trouble by informing your card issuer of your destination, and the dates, before you go.

4. Carry a Widely Accepted Card

Take a Visa or MasterCard as one of your primary cards to use during your trip. This is important because Discover and American Express aren't accepted at many places outside the United States, Vishnevskaya said. It's also recommended that you take a back up credit card as added protection in case a problem arises.
"Travel is an adventure, and you never know what kind of obstacles you may come across, Vishnevskaya said. "It's better to be prepared and have peace of mind."

5. Create A Foreign-Friendly PIN

Choi suggested that travelers make PIN numbers associated with debit or credit cards only four digits if going abroad. He said some foreign machines only accept four-digit PINS, meaning your card could get rejected if it uses more numbers.
Related:9 Best Travel Apps to Get Before Your Trip

6. Have Exchange Currency on Hand

Once you reach your foreign destination after a long day of travel, the last thing you'll want to do is hunt down a currency exchange machine. Having currency on hand as soon as you get to your destination will allow you to grab a drink or a snack, or take a taxicab to your hotel, without having to worry how you'll pay for it.
Vishnevskaya recommends finding out the current daily rate through a quick online search as well as through your local bank. If you find bank fees too high, then plan on bringing some U.S.dollars and exchange them once you get to your destination. You may want to shop around for a higher-paying exchange rate location.
"Money exchange booths will always have their rates posted outside of their shop, so compare these rates to the official daily rate ... to make sure that it's within reason," Vishnevskaya said. "Places that are notoriously bad for being terrible places to exchange money are airports and hotels. Avoid exchanging money at these places unless you really have to."

7. Mind Your ATM

Some of the larger U.S. banks have partnerships with other banks around the world, so you may be able to use those machines without incurring a fee. Ask your bank if they have any such partnerships in the area you're traveling to, and find out where those ATMs may be.

8. Pay Bills Before You Go

Make sure you've paid your monthly and other bills that will become due while you're away to avoid possible late fees.
"If you're not sure exactly how much you owe, log in to your online bank or call your credit card company directly to find out your current balance," Choi said. "It's better to have a zero balance before you leave as opposed to returning home and owing interest or late fees."
Related:Is a Travel Credit Card Right For You?

9. Consider Insurance

While we assume our vacations will go on without a hitch, that's not always the case. Philip Lee, a wealth manager with Modera Wealth Management, LLC, recommends purchasing travel insurance, as well as medical and death insurance.
"Illness and injuries can wreck a vacation. With proper insurance coverage, these issues will not put a damper on your finances," Lee said.

10. Stay Secure

Make sure you secure your valuables in a hotel safe if possible. Only carry items that you need each day, and make sure to never let your wallet or phone leave your sight.
These may seem like a lot of think about, but they are simple steps you can take that will spare you headaches and heartache. Doing some sound financial planning before you leave for your big trip will allow you to enjoy your travels that much more.
This article, Travel Prep: 10 Financial To-Dos Before Going on a Trip, originally appeared on
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