Summer’s almost here, and for many people, that means it’s travel time. In fact, according to a recent survey from Deloitte, half of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer — up from 46% a year ago.
Here are five things travelers heading out this summer should consider making now.
Get travel insurance
Travel insurance protects the financial investment you put into a trip. It might reimburse you for lost luggage, pay for your medical expenses while abroad or even cover your trip costs entirely if you have to cancel unexpectedly.
For these reasons, you’ll definitely want travel insurance for international trips — where your health insurance may not work — or on long, extended travel, when you have a lot of money invested.
“You should not travel without insurance,” Evans says. “Even if you’re traveling domestically, it can be helpful, as not every medical facility accepts every insurance company. So, if you’re out of network, you can be out of luck.”
If you are purchasing travel insurance, buy it as soon as you have the logistics of your trip planned — when you’re going, where you’re staying and how you’re getting there.
“Many insurance companies have limits to how close to travel time you’re allowed to purchase, so it’s better to think about it earlier rather than later,” says Claire Riley, owner of Duende Travels travel agency. “Cancel-for-any-reason policies typically need to be purchased within two weeks or so of your first nonrefundable trip cost, which is often flights.”
Most people use credit cards when booking travel. If you’re one of them, make sure you choose wisely, as many cards offer extra rewards for travel purchases. These could mean extra airline miles or more cash back on your next statement period. Other cards may offer extra trip protections, like rental car coverage, for example.
If you use a travel agent for your trip, let them know about any perks your card offers ahead of time.
“When my clients tell me which card gives them five times the points on hotels and which help them earn bonus frequent flier miles, I can make a note to use each card in the most efficient way,” Riley says.
Check exchange rates
If you’re going somewhere where you’ll need a different currency, then get it from your bank before heading out on your trip. Exchange kiosks at airports and other places tend to include markup fees, which can make exchanging money more expensive.
You can also think about the exchange rate in your home currency versus the place you’re going. In some scenarios, it might be cheaper to prepay for your hotel instead of waiting until you arrive to settle the bill.
“I’ve had some clients recently request to prepay hotels rather than pay upon arrival since the dollar-Euro exchange rate has been getting less favorable for Americans,” Riley says. “They probably saved at least a few hundred dollars paying when they did rather than waiting.”
Set up a travel fund
Once you know you’re traveling, set up a fund and start saving up cash for that trip. You can use these funds specifically for expenses while traveling — meals, tickets for sightseeing tours, etc.
This approach will also help you keep a better handle on your trip budget, according to Hans Mast, travel agent at Golden Rule Travel.
“Start a savings plan for your trip as early as possible,” Mast says. “It can help spread the financial burden and make your trip more enjoyable without overspending. Always remember, planning is the key to a successful, stress-free trip.”
Think about fees
Finally, anticipate any fees you might get hit with. This might include foreign transaction fees on your credit or debit card, international calling or messaging fees on your phone and roaming or data fees.
If your cards or phone plan include these types of fees, look into changing your plan or adding on international features for the time period that you’re traveling.
“Make sure you have an international plan turned on for your cell phone,” Evans says. “I always recommend putting an app like WhatsApp on your phone for ease of communication with folks back home.”
You should also let your credit card company and bank know that you’ll be traveling, including where and the exact dates.
As Mast explains, “It’s always a good idea to alert your credit card company about your travel plans to prevent your card from being blocked due to suspected fraudulent activity.”
Protect your trip
At the end of the day, buying a travel insurance policy is generally the single best thing you can do to protect your investment, travel agents say.
“Most travelers think of insurance from a medical perspective, but there are so many other reasons to be protected,” Evans says. “Travel is still not quite what it was pre-Covid. There are flight cancellations and delays every single day. Baggage loss is sadly a big reason in today’s travel climate.”