You don’t want to spend vacation time dealing with problems. That’s reason No. 2 for thinking about finances before a vacation. Reason No. 1? Why worry about anything on vacation? Do the ugly work before you leave home.
To alleviate worry and minimize financial problems, consider:
1. Don’t tell thieves you’re out of town. Stop the newspaper and mail or have a friend pick them up daily. Above all, don’t tell strangers that you’ll be on vacation, which translates into “My nice home will be completely empty for a week.”
2. Tell teenagers (and your spouse if appropriate) not to post anything online. A Facebook entry such as “Disney in 3 days can’t wait” also translates into “My nice home will be empty for a week.”
3. Watch out for fees. Many vacation budgets implode when faced with $25 per bag fees on the airline, $14 per day insurance fees for the car, etc. A number of vacationers get to the Orlando airport on their day of departure with less than $100 and no backup plan if their flight is cancelled. Beyond that last-day problem, who wants to count every penny on the last three days of a vacation?
4. Deal with your credit cards. Car rentals, specifically, want to make sure you have enough money to pay them, so they’ll block credit. That doesn’t mean you get charged – it means your credit card ceiling is lower. Know your limits, know rental car policies, and know your bank’s credit card policies should you go over the limit. If you have two credit cards, use one for the car rental and one for everything else.
5. Deal with cash. Don’t give the whole wad to just one person. (If Dad doesn’t completely trust Mom, you might want to deal with those issues before a vacation too.)
6. Prepare for bank interference. If relying on credit cards, your bank may look at an upswing in Orlando-area charges and wonder if someone stole your card. At the least, make sure your bank has your cell phone number on file in case they can’t reach you and decide to temporarily cut off all credit based on “suspicious activity.”
7. Put your wallet on a diet. Losing a wallet is a hassle. Losing it in a foreign city is worse. If you don’t need your library card, drug store card, or even third credit card, leave them at home.
8. Xerox every card in your wallet. If someone stole a credit card, would you know the number? Would you have your bank’s “800” number somewhere to report the loss? Stick all cards in a copier and keep the copy in a safe place. (Not your wallet.)
9. Hide your card numbers. Today’s tech thieves are really, really smart. They have ways to read your numbers through ATMs and other machines. The risk is no greater in Orlando than Harrisburg, Pa.; still, show a bit of discretion – shield pass codes with one hand, for example, if taking cash out of an ATM.