A lot of work goes into planning a vacation—from figuring out flight logistics and choosing where you’ll sleep, to planning daily activities (or not—maybe you’re spontaneous) and packing.
The goals of this article are to help you avoid financial surprises on your next trip, and to help make your travel experience the best it can be.
Many packaged tours and customized itineraries are non-refundable or have hefty cancellation fees. Some travel agents sell insurance, but it may not be robust enough, or it could be worthless if the tour operator goes bust. If you want to protect your non-refundable travel expenses in the event of surprises or unforeseen events, such as natural disasters, political unrest, medical emergencies, illness, or the death of a relative, consider travel insurance.
If you choose to buy this protection, only insure what you absolutely can’t recover. For example, airlines may charge a minimal per-ticket cancellation fee, but you generally have time (often a year) to apply the remaining cost of the unused tickets to another flight. Check your auto and life insurance policies. Credit cards may offer coverage, too—especially for vendor non-performance.
Travel Guard is a popular travel insurance carrier that offers three levels of protection, and you can purchase coverage online or with an agent. InsureMyTrip.com sells coverage from 21 carriers and was mentioned favorably in Consumer Reports. Read the fine print of a sample policy to understand what’s covered, and expect to pay 5% to 7% of the cost of the trip.
Check with your health insurance provider about coverage for travel overseas.
If you don’t already have one, find an ATM card with unlimited ATM fee rebates, such as the one from Schwab Bank. A benefit-rich card, such as the Schwab Bank one offers, will give you unlimited AMT fee rebates worldwide and no foreign transaction fees for purchases made with the debit card.
Foreign Transaction Fees
Using your credit card is an easy way to pay for travel expenses, but if you’re traveling internationally, make sure you use a card that waives foreign transaction fees, which can run 1% to 2% of purchases. The American Express Platinum card does not charge foreign transaction fees, and some airline affinity credit cards are also foreign transaction fee-free. Read this NerdWallet article on the Best No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards of 2016.
Enrolling in the Department of Homeland Security’s Global Entry program allows you to whisk through airport security lines. When returning to the U.S. or boarding a plane within the U.S., Global Entry members are eligible to participate in TSA PreCheck. No need to take off your shoes or remove your laptop from your bag. But apply early! The current wait time for an in-person interview in San Francisco is five months.
Visa Signature Concierge
The team at Visa Signature Concierge works as your personal travel assistant to book rental cars, hotel rooms (some with perks), unique experiences, and one-off requests, such as event tickets. And it’s free. Find out if your Visa card has these benefits by reviewing this list. Ask for a travel specialist, if you wish.
American Express Platinum
If you’re a frequent traveler, the American Express Platinum card, with its $450 annual fee, may be well worth the price. Use it to accrue points for hotel stays and other travel experiences, shopping, dining and entertainment. Every year, members get a $200 airline fee credit, a rebate for Global Entry fees, access to the Centurion Lounge at San Francisco International Airport, and Priority Pass lounge access worldwide. You’ll also get access to American Express travel agents, who can help book trips, provide advice, and offer assistance when you’re on a trip. Search for an online sign-up bonus, such as 75,000 points if you spend $15,000 in the first three months.
Be Smart with Your Smartphone
While thieves the world over are only too eager to relieve owners of their smartphones, wise use of your smart device can save you from countless travel headaches. This article offers 10 genius ways to make the most of photo functionality, including wayfinding in unfamiliar transit systems and recovering lost luggage—and even lost kids.
It’s hard to create wealth. But for many people, travel and adventure are reasons to get up and go to work every day. The resources above may help save you money, time, and aggravation on your next trip.
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