Money Matters and International Travel

Planning and preparation are the keys to worry- and hassle-free trips.

Picture this: Your plane has just touched down on the tarmac in Oslo, Norway, the frigid air nipping at your nose as you disembark. Your Scandinavian odyssey, the trip you’ve dreamed of for a lifetime, awaits. You hurry toward the baggage claim, dreams of fjords and Vikings swirling through your head, when you realize your wallet is a bit too light: You’ve lost your credit card, the only access to cash you brought along. Now what?

Taking Cash Abroad

“Your vacation is not the time you want to spend waiting for additional funds to be wired or replacement cards to arrive,” said Ron Carr, budget and compliance officer for AAA Ohio Auto Club. That’s why we recommend bringing several different forms of payment, including a prepaid option such as our Visa TravelMoney card, a credit card and foreign currency for your destination.

Whether you choose to get your foreign currency from your AAA store or from a bank, keep in mind the exchange rates you see online likely won’t be the same rates you’ll get: Those are based on the exchange of thousands of dollars. And it’s often smart to purchase or sell back currency at a place other than the airport, which often assesses additional fees. Doing a little preparation before your trip can help you save in the long run. (Read more about obtaining foreign currency in AAA money tips for foreign travel.)

Is Travel Insurance for Me?

Travel insurance can be useful if your journey includes a cruise, package tour, or an apartment or house rental. The same is true if you should need medical insurance while traveling overseas. It’s always smart to determine whether your existing insurance policies will cover your needs while you and your family are away. For example, if you have an umbrella policy, lost luggage may already be covered.

Check with your medical insurance provider before purchasing extra coverage for your overseas trip. Many health plans in the U.S. do not cover you outside the country unless you are traveling on business. Work with your travel consultant to see if travel insurance would be a good idea for your next trip.

Book Early and Save

If you’ll be booking air travel, when’s the best time to buy? According to Kimberly Schwind, senior manager of Public Affairs for AAA Ohio Auto Club, it’s sooner rather than later.

“It’s best to check early and often for the best deals. Especially with airfare; as you get closer to your departure date and the planes fill up, the prices go up. There’s no such thing as a last-minute flight deal,” Schwind said.

Booking at least 14 days ahead of your departure date typically means you’ll find a better rate than waiting, so plan ahead. Other money-saving tips include being flexible with your arrival and departure dates and airports, being aware of the fees you’re being charged, and avoiding peak travel times, such as Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.

A Member Perspective

AAA members Priscilla and Dave Mondiek have taken more than a dozen trips abroad since 2008. The couple expressed the importance of preparing for a trip, including bringing along cash for gratuities and not relying on just one form of payment.

“It is nice to have real money for a coffee, when you’re in a hurry or if a business doesn’t take cards,” said Priscilla. “It’s a guessing game, but we usually take approximately $600 in currency on our trips.”

An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to planning your dream vacation.

For more information on booking a getaway, be sure to talk to an AAA travel agent.