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Travel Smart: Tips for Worry-Free Summer Adventures Thumbnail

Travel Smart: Tips for Worry-Free Summer Adventures

Andrea McClelland, CFP®

With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, Summer is (un)-officially upon us! If you’re planning an international getaway this summer, ensure peace of mind and protect your finances with these travel tips:

Travel Insurance: Is it Worth It?

When considering travel insurance, look for comprehensive coverage that includes trip cancellations and delays, medical emergencies, and lost luggage. Some credit cards, most notably Chase Sapphire Reserve and Capital One Venture X, offer substantial travel protections - review your card’s benefits to avoid overlapping coverage. Consider purchasing insurance for non-refundable reservations and expensive trips. You may wish to skip it if most of your reservations are cancelable or refundable. If purchasing travel insurance, strongly consider medical evacuation insurance and medical coverage.

Health Precautions for International Travel

Stay healthy abroad by researching prevalent health issues and suggested medical items to pack for your destination on the CDC’s travel page and State Department Travel Advisories. Get any needed vaccinations well in advance, and fill any prescriptions you’ll need to bring. Be prepared for minor health issues by packing medications for common ailments such as nausea, diarrhea, and allergies. 

Check your health insurance policy for overseas coverage. Many health insurance plans offer no (or very limited) benefits for overseas healthcare. While Medicare generally does not cover care abroad, several Medigap plans offer substantial coverage. Know how to access care and have a plan for emergencies. If your health insurance does cover care overseas, look up participating overseas providers in advance.

Managing Finances on the Go

It's generally good practice to use credit cards for most purchases if possible, as your liability is limited in case of loss or theft. Carry only the credit cards you will use on your trip, and notify your credit card issuers and bank of your international travel plans to prevent fraud alerts and card freezes. Many credit card issuers charge a foreign transaction fee of 2-3%, though some do not (notably, all Capital One credit cards have no foreign transaction fees). Local merchants may offer the option to pay for your purchases in dollars; decline this service and choose instead to pay in local currency to avoid the unfavorable exchange rates associated with Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

Carrying a small amount of local currency is also prudent for cash purchases or as a backup if your credit cards are stolen or frozen. You'll typically get the best exchange rates at local ATMs rather than at airport exchange services or currency exchange shops. Use ATMs in well-trafficked, safe locations, preferably inside buildings. Check your bank's policies on foreign transaction fees and ATM fee reimbursements. Additionally, carrying an emergency reserve of U.S. dollars can provide added security. 

Emergency Preparedness

Being prepared to handle the unexpected can enhance peace of mind. Know the location of the nearest U.S. embassy to your destination. You may wish to enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides notifications and assistance to U.S. nationals in the event of a disaster or emergency, or for evacuation coordination. Keep copies of your important documents separate from the originals, including your passport, visa (if required), driver's license, travel insurance policy, health insurance card, front and back of your credit/debit cards, and proof of any required vaccinations. Digital copies on your phone are convenient, but also have hard copies in case your device is inaccessible or lost.

Having a working cell phone can help you stay connected and handle any issues while overseas. Many U.S. carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T include free talk, text and data usage in Mexico and Canada on their unlimited plans, without needing to add an international plan or pay extra fees. For other countries, these carriers offer international roaming plans or the ability to temporarily add international coverage to your existing plan for an additional cost.

Purchasing a local prepaid SIM card once at your destination is usually the most economical option for travelers comfortable making that change to their phone. This requires having an unlocked phone and it's crucial to safely store your original SIM card to swap back in after your trip.

By taking proactive steps, you can ensure peace of mind and a safer, more enjoyable travel experience. Bon voyage!

This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information as of the date of publication, and is intended for informational purposes only. No content should be construed as legal or tax advice. Please consult your financial professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. Past performance does not guarantee future results. All investing involves risk, including risk of loss.