As summer approaches, Americans start gearing up for their vacation season. But even if you already have all of your reservations made, there are still several steps you must take to ensure a smooth summer vacation.
1. Double-check all flight times.
Airlines change their flight schedules all of the time, but often fail to notify passengers. And the later you catch a change, the fewer alternative options you will have. The best practice is to check your flights online every month or two, and take one last glance a few days before departure. But when the airlines do make a change, be prepared to request any flights that might be better for you than the original ones.
2. Reconfirm seat assignments.
Even when an airline hasn’t changed its schedule, it can still substitute an aircraft with a different seating configuration. And when it does, its computers might reassign you from your coveted aisle seat in the front of the plane to a middle seat in the back. So each time that you check your flight schedules, be sure to confirm that your seat assignments haven’t changed, either.
3. Find the best credit card for your summer vacation.
For international trips, you will want a credit card with an EMV smart chip, but without foreign transaction fees. And even on domestic trips, it may be worth it to have an airline credit card that offers checked baggage fee waivers and other perks.
4. Bring the credit card that you used to purchase your airfare.
This may not always be necessary, but it can’t hurt. Some airlines will actually require passengers to present the credit card they used when they check in, but this is usually for trips to developing countries. In other instances, the credit card used to purchase the ticket can be used to quickly print a boarding pass at check-in kiosks at the airport.
5. Take your ATM card.
In most places, the best way to access cash is from an ATM card. When used to withdrawal cash, credit cards charge cash advance fees, and huge interest rates. And unlike purchases, cash advances using a credit card have no grace period and will always incur interest charges.
6. When leaving the U.S., notify your banks.
Nearly every credit card issuer should be notified when you travel outside the U.S., so that they don’t suspect fraud. Include every country that you may visit, even if you are just changing planes there. Note that American Express no longer needs to be informed.
7. Print out all reservations.
Smartphones are great, but even when you can get a signal in a foreign country, your phone can still be lost, stolen, damaged or just have a dead battery. Therefore, the best strategy will always be to print out every airline, hotel and rental car reservation. Staple them together in the order you will use them, and you can rip them off and throw them away when they are no longer needed. And when printing out your airline reservation, make sure to print the receipt with the confirmation number and the ticket number, not just the itinerary. These numbers are proof that you have purchased the ticket.
Part of the fun of taking a big summer vacation is putting it all together. And by following this summer checklist, you can impress your traveling companions by pulling off a complicated itinerary without a hitch.
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