Getting a great vacation deal is exciting. You did your homework: hit all your favorite comparison websites, found a sweet rate on airfare and crushed it with (an unbelievable bargain on airfare and) an amazing hotel package. You even managed to top it all off with a fabulous rental car for next-to-nothing. So much spare cash in your pocket for once you get there! But it could all be for naught if you get hit with costly expenses. Here are some important things you should do before traveling abroad to help avoid unexpected costs and save you money.
1. Check your passport
Check it several weeks before you leave the country. Is your passport still valid? And for how long? Remember, some other countries require that your passport remain valid several months after your arrival.
2. Figure out communication plans
If you really need to be in touch on a foreign trip (think about that for a minute. Do you really?) check with your mobile carrier about international plans and rates before you go. Many devices won’t even work outside the United States – and it's not unheard of to pay $2 or more a minute for an international phone call. Another option would be to rent or buy a prepaid phone upon arrival at your destination.
3. Look at baggage fees
These are the kind of maddening “gotchas” that can really spoil a great trip. You don’t want to find out at check-in that your bags don’t meet size and weight restrictions, or that a second checked bag will set you back $100. So verify with your airline about baggage fees and restrictions before you fly. Maybe even before you book.
4. Consider travel insurance
Most health insurance plans don't provide full coverage in foreign countries. Some health plans provide no coverage at all, including Medicare. Travel insurance plans are a simple way to have emergency medical coverage while you’re away.
Before you leave the country, check with your health insurance provider to see how much coverage you'll have.
5. Contact your bank
Banks these days are keen to protect you from fraud. So if they see unusual credit or debit card activity – even if it’s really you that decided to slip over to Sri Lanka for a few days – they could suspend your card until they’re able to contact you. To avoid this, notify your bank that you’ll be traveling, and where. That way, you won’t be embarrassed at that little hole-in-the-wall Parisian bistro that nobody knows about – except for you and your bank.
6. Double-check your itinerary
Double-check your itinerary carefully before booking your reservations. Are you allowing enough time between flights? Have you considered different time zones? Are you booking a flight out of the right airport? (Some cities have several.) Be sure to get all these details right – it will save you time, money and frustration.
7. Make local transportation plans
Before you leave, determine how you’ll get from your destination airport to the hotel – and anyplace else around town. Does your hotel have an airport shuttle? Can you get around by bus, train or taxi? Should you buy a public transit pass – or would a rental car be better? Or ride-sharing? Research your local transportation options ahead of time to save yourself a lot of grief.