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Travel Tips on Financial Issues

Articles

Currency Tips

  • Ask your travel agent if there are any restrictions on using U.S. currency in the country to which you’re traveling. Some countries (several African republics and Cuba) prohibit the use of U.S. currency altogether. Others may only accept the new bills, not the old ones.
  • For more information, read Peter Savage's short but informative article Exchanging Currency For Your Trip Abroad.
  • Even though 12 European countries have switched to the same currency, you should still expect at least some fluctuation in the value of the euro depending on where you are. A cup of coffee will not cost the same all across Europe!
  • As of February 28, 2002, you can no longer use your leftover currency for transactions. As of June 30, 2002, you can only exchange leftover currency for euro at national central banks and some specially designated banks. Deadlines and fees for this service vary by country.
  • France’s central bank—Banque de France—only offers currency exchange services during morning hours. Commercial banks and exchange bureaus are open longer hours. Check rates and compare ahead of time before making your decision.

Budget Tips

  • Don’t pay for travel searches. Travel searches are provided by retailers to customers for free, so charging for them is a sign that the source may be untrustworthy.
  • Don’t go into major debt when planning a vacation. If you're looking to travel this year, but just do not have the time or funds, why not take a vacation closer to home. While the word 'staycation' might turn some people off, you can actually make the most out of travel without going far away. Two ways to get a break from everyday life without going into major debt are to look for deals under $199 for a weekend getaway to a nearby state or stay at a hotel in your own city.
  • As a general rule, it's more expensive to fly on the weekend than a weekday. Expect the lowest fares when flying on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
  • Keep checking the price of airline fares even after you've booked your flight. If the fare drops, you may be able to change your ticket and receive the lower fare. You must meet the requirements-for example, there may be a two-week advance purchase requirement. You will have to pay any ticket-changing fee, so make sure the change in ticket price will cover that cost.
    Some car rental companies put a ‘hold’ of several hundred to several thousand dollars on your credit card as a deposit. Ask about this practice when you make the reservation. This will reduce your available credit balance, so you may need to bring along another card on your trip.
  • If you are financially affected because a flight is delayed, the airlines are not responsible for compensating you. When you absolutely must be there on time—closing a big business deal, giving a paid speech, attending a wedding, etc.—your best bet is to plan to arrive earlier than needed so you have some leeway.
  • To track expenses better when traveling in a country whose language you don’t read, take a minute after a purchase to write all the key information on the receipt. When you review expenses at the end of the trip, you’ll easily be able to categorize expenses and match back to the credit card statement.
  • Through WTA’s arrangement with amusement parks around the country, members are entitled to discount coupons that can save you a bundle. Click here to get more information on this popular benefit!
  • Get a National Park Pass this year. For one reasonable price, you and your family gain entrance into national parks, monuments, historic sites, and national wildlife refuges for a one-year period.  Seniors can pay a low, one-time fee and gain free entrance for a lifetime, plus discounts on facilities and services such as camping, swimming, and tours. Get details and purchase passes by visiting the National Park Service’s web site www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm, by calling 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747), or by visiting a park where an entrance fee is charged.
  • Look for hotels and B&Bs that include breakfast in the cost of the room. Not only will this speed your morning along, you can save your money for a more tasty meal later in the day.
  • On your next trip, compare the cost of a condo or hotel suite with kitchen facilities to a regular room. If you are willing to commit to eating in rather than at restaurants, the savings on meals may more than offset the additional cost for lodging.
  • Ever wondered how much to tip a hotel employee? If service is good, here are the standard guidelines for the U.S.: $1 per bag for a bellman who carries your luggage; $1-$2 for a doorman to hail a taxi; $1-$2/day left on your dresser for the housekeeper; $5 and up for a concierge who makes reservations or performs some service for you. As with all tipping, pay more for exceptional service/attitude, and less for sub-standard service.
  • Most hotels charge a fee to use their phone for outside calls whether local or long distance. These fees typically are $.50 to $1.00 or more just to use the line. Long distance rates through the hotel are usually very high, much higher than regular rates you get for home service. There are alternatives. Before traveling, get a calling card whose service you can access with a toll-free number. Then you can use that card from the hotel room and pay those low rates and avoid being hit with unexpected phone call charges on your hotel bill when you check out. WTA offers a no fee, low rate calling card. Alternatively, increase the service area on your cell phone so that it covers the area to which you are traveling.
  • Travelers on a budget will find 3-star hotels perfectly acceptable in most cases. Go for a 5-star hotel for those extra-special occasions.
  • Great rates (up to 65% off) can be found at hotels through the WTA Lodging Discount Program. Click here to find a hotel that’s right for your destination and budget.
  • Evacuation from a cruise ship can cost $10,000 to $20,000, so do seriously consider carrying travel-related evacuation insurance when booking your cruise. Click here to check rates and book coverage.
  • The per-person cabin rates on cruises almost always assume double occupancy. Single travelers often must pay for the empty bed or be willing to share a cabin with a stranger. Your travel agent can help you find a single room, but these are extremely limited and sell out quickly. Your best bet? Find a friend to come along.
  • Are you dying to try a popular (but expensive) restaurant, but worried what it will do to your budget? The solution is to go for lunch rather than dinner. The price will be lower, and as an added bonus you’ll have the rest of the day to walk off the big meal.
  • Tipping is unnecessary in a Japanese restaurant, as your bill will most likely include a service charge.
  • In Spain, some restaurants will drop your bill by 10-20% if you eat at the bar rather than at a table.
  • Look for hotels and B&Bs that include breakfast in the cost of the room. Not only will this speed your morning along, you can save your money for a more tasty meal later in the day.
  • If you decline the rental car company’s collision coverage and rely on your credit card company’s coverage, don’t split the bill between credit cards. The entire bill must be paid with that credit card or any claim will most likely be denied.