Consumer Watch: Protect your money while on vacation

Consumer Watch: Protect your money while on vacation

July 20th, 2014 by Ellen Phillips in Business Diary

Ellen Phillips

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Do you have any tips to conserve money safely while on a vacation?

- Tom Traveler

Dear Mr. Traveler: In checking financial sites mixed with a dose of my own experiences and good, old-fashioned common sense, I can offer suggestions.

1. Before beginning your travels, call all your credit card companies to make them aware of where you'll be. After all, if your charges normally come from our area, and purchases start showing up while you're in Europe or elsewhere, you easily could find your cards denied because of possible fraudulent charges.

2. Check bank fees during your international trip before you leave. Unless you're carrying all cash (NOT advisable) or travelers' checks, you'll obviously need a credit card along the way. Too, have an idea where you'll convert American money to foreign currency and if you'll save more or less on purchases whether using foreign funds or credit cards.

3. Separate your money. As many of you know, to call me paranoid is an understatement so before we embarked on our years-planned-for overseas vacation a couple of years ago and after talking with more-seasoned travel friends, I made a "plan." First off, I divided our funds into cash (with the bulk in Euros and pounds which we exchanged at our local bank), traveler's checks, and a bank card apiece. We set out each morning with a photo ID, a miniature version of our passport, a credit card and only a certain amount of money for each day - mine in a travel pouch hung around my neck and my husband's in a similar contraption around his waist. (Now, I must add here that he is a seasoned traveler himself and, in fact, traveled all over the world before retirement. While he thought I was taking precautions a bit too far, he also knew I would be happier the safer I felt and, since my state of mind directly influences his peace of mind, he pretty much kept his mouth shut.) And as a P.S. to this directive, pickpockets abound in Europe more than ever, and it's much harder to grab something literally attached to a tourist's body than the thief sticking his or her hand into a pants pocket or snatching a purse. (If you simply must carry a wallet, be sure to keep it in a front pocket, never in the back.)

4. Speaking of protecting your "valuables," bring clothes with multiple pockets that zipper close. Not only can you store lots of stuff, but the zippers go a long way in preventing thieves from helping themselves. This also does away with the necessity of carrying a purse.

5. Leave copies of important information at home with a trusted family member or friend. Whether your passport, credit card information, or whatever, if you do lose a credit card, for instance, you or your person can immediately contact the company to cancel your card and issue a new one.

6. And, finally, please consider travel insurance when taking a vacation, especially if you're traveling by air or ship. After all, you're investing hard-earned money on this trip and, let's face it: you-know-what happens despite the best of intentions! A relatively inexpensive policy can cover lost luggage, airline fiascoes, trip cancellation, medical expenses, and so forth that can turn your dream trip into a nightmare.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Sunday. You may contact her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com