Finances & Debt

Essential Things to Remember Before Leaving on Vacation

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When getting ready for vacation, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with things to remember: scheduling the kennel for pets, putting the mail on hold, finding passports, replacing luggage. The list goes on and on.

Before you head out, here are six important vacation planning “to-dos” (and one “not-to-do!”) that will help you stress less about any legal, logistical or financial issues while you’re vacationing.

1. Plan ahead and look back.

When it comes to road trips, it really is important to “know before you go.” Look online and research your travel route for any construction, weather or rush hours you'll want to avoid for travel safety. You may also want to notify your credit card company you'll be traveling to a certain region, state or country so they won't flag or freeze your account for suspicious activity.

Once you return, review any credit card statements or receipts to ensure you were charged correctly and that no fraudulent activity occurred. Then shred all your receipts, boarding passes, etc. Locate your passports, if needed, and store them securely.

2. Update crucial documents.

Creating essential legal documents, such as a will or a healthcare power of attorney, is always a good idea, but updating them before you travel becomes even more important. Make sure these documents contain the most current beneficiaries and instructions. If you don't have a will, you may leave important decisions — such as guardians for your children — up to the court system and the laws of the state.

3. Leave important information with someone.

It's important that a family member or friend knows where you’re traveling, your departure and return dates and how to get in touch with you while you’re gone in case of an emergency. So make sure you leave your important contact information in one, easy-to-locate place before you leave town.

4. Get your travel documents together.

If you plan to travel internationally, you'll be required to have a passport — or a passport card if you are traveling to certain countries or regions by sea or by land. The application process for a passport can take several weeks, and require you to provide vital documents, such as a birth certificate, to complete the process.

Additionally, a state-issued driver's license is considered valid proof of ID at the airport, so remember to bring it along when you fly. Before you go, remember to check the expiration date and make sure all your information on the license is current. According to the Transportation Security Administration, if your identity cannot be verified you may not be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint or get on an airplane.

5. Complete health care forms for children.

If you are a parent or guardian, it is a good idea to complete a form referred to as a Medical Treatment Authorization for Minors. This document provides information regarding your child's medical history as well as insurance information and authorizes medical personnel to treat your child in the event you are not physically present or you cannot be located or contacted.
 

6. Review rental contracts carefully.

If you're planning to rent a car or boat, make sure you understand the terms and conditions involved. Some rental car companies, for example, impose strict mileage restrictions for first-time renters. Many companies either screen your driving record or ask you to confirm in the contract that you have an acceptable record. It may be a good idea to have an attorney review the document before you sign on the dotted line.

If you are renting a home or condo instead of staying in a hotel, make sure you have an agreement in writing. Details about insurance, security deposits and rental services should be included. Before you sign, verify that the owner is allowed to rent their place to you. In some urban areas, communities have laws that restrict short-term rentals or subletting. Double-checking this before you leave could save you the hassle of dealing with an unauthorized rental while on your trip.

What’s the “Not-to-Do?” Don't advertise you're gone.

There are a number of little things you can do to help keep your home secure while you're gone. First, put a hold on any mail, newspapers or packages delivered to your home. Then get a timer that will turn lights on and off at different times of day. Have someone stop by periodically to check doors, windows, locks, etc. to ensure everything is secure.

Also, even though you're excited to tell others about your fun vacation plans, don't post details online about when you depart, your destination or how long you'll be gone. This gives identity thieves or potential burglars the puzzle pieces they need to steal your identity or locate your home. Wait until you get back to post pictures of your trip.

Planning a vacation can be stressful, but you can save yourself a great deal of time and hassle by following a vacation list like the one above. Then you can get down to what a trip is really about — relaxation, adventure or both.

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