Financial tips for traveling abroad

For the past couple weeks, I have been planning an overseas holiday vacation for my family. Planning any vacation takes a lot of work, but planning a vacation to a country where you don’t know the languages, laws, or customs requires so much more. I’ve browsed various travel sites, scanned popular traveler forums, and skimmed travel books to gather much needed tips on how to travel safely and financially responsibly in each foreign country. If you’re planning an overseas getaway this holiday season, below are some tips compiled from my research on how to avoid financial stress during what should be a relaxing vacation.

  1. Call your bank. Make sure to contact your banks before you depart to let them know you’ll be out of the country. Banks will often cut off access to your card because they think it is being used fraudulently overseas.
  2. Bring at least two payment types. You’ve already called your banks to notify them you’ll be out of the country, but in case there are still issues you’ll want to be prepared with a backup payment method. Use cash whenever possible though and in the currency of the country. Merchants often charge a “currency conversion fee” and credit cards may charge “foreign transaction fees” too which will add up. With cash, you can pay a flat fee per withdraw from an ATM versus a percentage of what you spend with a card, but you’ll have to do some math to determine what will come out cheaper.
  3. Make copies of your important documents. It’s important that you have access to copies of your important documents such as your passport, credit cards, health insurance, etc. but if your belongings get stolen, it’s likely that printed copies may be stolen as well. My suggestion is to save your copies online in a password protected space. You’ll have access to these as long as you have access to the Internet.
  4. Look into booking vacation rentals over hotel rooms. Since vacation rentals are most often less expensive than hotel rooms, you’ll be able to save money on what can be your highest travel expense. Be sure to do extensive research before sending your payment, since you’ll likely be communicating directly with the property owner. I’ve been checking reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor or booking the accommodations at reputable sites such as Venere.
  5. Plan how you’ll get to your final destination. Whether by taxi, shuttle, or public transportation, determine beforehand how you’ll arrive at your accommodations to save on unexpected expenses. Taxi drivers are known to take advantage of unknowing tourists so be aware of what your fare should be, and the less expensive shuttle services usually require reservations.
  6. Pack lightly. Not only will lighter luggage make your trek easier, but you can avoid checked baggage fees by packing a carry-on. Some airlines will charge you up to $35 per checked bag! For current fees, check out the airline baggage fees chart from AirFareWatchdog.com.

Lastly, enjoy yourself! You’ve planned well and deserve this much needed vacation. For other financial-related travel tips, check out:

Budget-friendly off-season travel
Heading home for the holidays
Cut your travel budget without sacrificing your vacation

Anna Kronzer is a former marketing specialist and program manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.