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Vacation season is upon us. With all the things that happened in our world over the last year, and many previous getaway plans squashed, it’s sure to be a vacation season unlike any other. 

Thankfully the economy has been stimulated and travel is being normalized again. The CDC even changed their recommendation on masks, so aspects of travel for some can be done without the encumbrance of a mask. Many around the country are eager and able to get back to traveling!

However, too often a vacation can set us back financially. I thought it would be wise to share three things all of us should do with our finances to set our vacation up for success.

 1. Double check your credit card rewards.

I know, I am a finance expert that appreciates some of what Dave Ramsey teaches. I have even taught Financial Peace University at my church for many years. And he teaches that credit cards are evil. But I don’t agree with that. 

I don’t think credit cards are for everyone, but they work well for me. And I do not think anyone will get rich off of credit card points, but there is a reality with credit card rewards:  one out of every three people have credit card travel rewards that go unused. 

So, before booking your vacation, login to your credit card rewards online system or call in to your credit card company to see if you have any rewards. If you do, see if you can use any of them for the upcoming trip. 

I rarely get an entire vacation paid for with credit card points, but I often get a flight or a hotel stay paid for through points. It is a nice money saving bonus!

2. Use cash

I rarely use cash. With things like Venmo, Apple Pay, and other electronic payment methods being added to the often used credit card and debit cards, it makes me wonder if cash will still be around in the future.

However, I use cash most when I travel for two reasons:

a) Tips

I engage with service staff often when I travel. From waiters, waitresses, bellmen, cleaning crews, and more–I am being served by awesome people. These folks depend on tips as part of their income. The number one way they like to get their tips? Cash! And the easiest way for me to show them I appreciate their work is to hand them cash–as long as I have it in my pocket.

Sometimes I forget to go to the ATM to get the cash needed and it makes my travel a lot less convenient and causes me some fear. 

b) Safety

The number one way bank account information gets stolen or compromised is through travel. As a general rule, I NEVER use my debit card or other check account information when I travel. If I cannot use cash, I use a credit card. This way if my information does get stolen, it’s to my credit information and not to my real money. I would much rather someone hack into my credit card than into my checking or savings account. This way if the funds are stolen, I can dispute it. If my real money is taken from my checking account, it would cause a major disruption to my life. 

Using cash as often as possible when you travel reduces the risk involved.

3. Make a plan and stick to it

Confession: I overspend on vacation. And I am not alone. 

So many people get into a laze fair mindset when on vacation. So much so that they take a vacation from good financial behaviors and spend more than they should. This leaves you coming home in a worse financial situation than you left. It ensures your vacation stays with you, negatively, longer than you wanted.

My wife sets aside a specific amount of money in a “vacation” account. Then, when we go on vacation, we can spend from that account (or grab cash from that account) without having to consider other daily financial liabilities. 

This practice allows us to take a vacation from our financial behaviors (cause that is fun!) and protects us from over spending while on our trip. The only behavior we need to manage while on vacation is discipline to ONLY spend from that one account. Simple!

Vacations are awesome! They bring joy, memories, and unique life experiences. I am so excited for this vacation season ahead. And I’m pumped to see others enjoy vacations as I follow them on social media (follow me on Instagram and Twitter).

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