You've booked your airfare and vacation rental, your significant other has checked TripAdvisor for sightseeing and restaurant ideas, you've hired a pet sitter, and your bags are finally packed (or you're thinking about it anyway). Still, you might not be completely ready for your vacation. There are a number of steps you can take to make your trip worry-free and ensure that your finances continue to hum along in your absence.
- Call your debit and credit card issuers to advise them of your travel plans so that any transactions you make while traveling are approved rather than flagged as possibly fraudulent.
- If your monthly bills aren't already set up for auto-payment, this is a great time to do so. You can even use a credit card to earn miles or points.
- If you have a home security system, call the monitoring company and tell them you'll be out of town. Make sure you know your account password or code word in case there are any trouble signals while you're away.
- This is not exactly a personal finance step, but I advise clients to avoid posting every step of your vacation on social media...or wait until you return home. Posts (and location-tagged photos) tell potential criminals that you're away, and they might use this knowledge to target your home.
- Remove from your wallet any cards you don't need while on vacation. Make photocopies of the front and back of your wallet contents (driver's license, credit and debit cards) or use your smartphone to take photos so that you can act quickly in case your wallet is stolen or lost. Keep a copy with you in your luggage and another copy at home. While we're on the topic, never carry your social security card in your wallet; this number, along with your wallet contents, could lead to identity theft.
- Consider applying for TSA pre-check status or Global Entry (if you plan to travel internationally in the next few years) to greatly reduce your airport security and customs/immigration wait times. Air travel is at near-record levels and TSA security lines are expected to be as long as 2 to 3 hours at major US airports.
- Take steps to prevent pickpocketing: men shouldn't carry wallets in a back pocket, and ladies should use a handbag that closes securely with a zipper and can be carried in front where you can see it. If you’ll be using a backpack, carry it in front of you, otherwise it's an easy target.
- Don’t use public WiFi to check your back account balance or make financial transactions; these hotspots are not secure and your personal information could be at risk.
- Back up your smartphones, iPads, and any other devices before you leave.
For international travel, there are a couple of additional measures to take:
- Use your smartphone to take a photo of your family's passports (just the page with your photo and passport#), or make photocopies, in case one is lost or stolen. Keep copies of the passports with you when you travel, and leave additional copies at home with a trusted family member or friend.
- Before your trip, ask your credit and debit card issuers about any foreign transaction fees that may be assessed when you use the card abroad. There are some credit cards that charge no foreign transaction fees, and these might be a good option if you often travel overseas, as the fee savings can greatly offset the credit card's annual fee.
The summer travel season is upon us, so take these simple steps now to ensure your dream vacation doesn't turn into a nightmare while you're away or after you return home.
Authored by fellow Alliance of Comprehensive Planner (ACP) member, Karin E. McKerahan, MBA, CFP®. Alliance of Comprehensive Planners