For me, the whole point of a vacation is to relax and have some fun. Yet many people return from vacation frazzled and stressed because of problems and expenses that could have been avoided with a little advance planning. June, July and August are peak travel times in the US and planning ahead will save you both time and money. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating – planning ahead helps ensure you have a smooth trip and saves money which means you can travel more.
1. Pack early. A few days ahead of your departure, start gathering the items you need for your trip. You’re less likely to forget something if you make a packing list and use it. I keep travel items in a large storage tub so I am less likely to forget something.

2. Pack plenty of snacks and drinks. This saves you time and money which makes for less stress overall. Eating out 3 meals a day is expensive and often not very satisfying. Even when I’m traveling by plane, I pack some favorite snacks – airline snack boxes are expensive and often don’t contain food I like.

3. Charge up your electronics and make sure you have all of your chargers packed and ready to go the night before you leave. I have a small zippered bag that stores my chargers and earbuds. Having them packed the night before is so much easier than scrambling around the day of departure to find them.

4. If you are traveling to a destination during peak season, book your lodging early. Lodging around National Parks and other busy attractions book up as much as one year in advance. If you wait to book, you are likely to find that there is no availability even in a no frills campground. And any lodging that is available is likely to be very, very expensive. If you didn’t plan ahead and all of the hotels are booked or the available motel rooms are $400.00 a night, then check Airbnb – you might luck out and find a great place at a reasonable price.

5. Research your destination ahead of time. Do a little reading before you travel and you’ll have a better idea of what you want to do when you arrive. A little research can save you time, money and aggravation because you’ll be able to avoid peak crowds, book tours ahead of time, and maybe even save a few dollars. Booking online often saves a few dollars per ticket so it pays to check attraction websites before you travel. I sign up to receive hotel and destination emails because they often contain discounts and other deals that I wouldn’t receive otherwise.

6. Never pay ATM out-of-network fees. I make sure I have enough cash to start a trip and I use a bank debit card that allows me to get cash back free when I make a purchase at Wal-Mart or a grocery store. Since I usually need to buy snacks or groceries along the way, this works for me. Check your bank or credit union for their specific rules regarding debit cards and out-of-network ATM fees.

7. Avoid data roaming fees. Travel outside your coverage area and you may rack up unexpected and expensive cell phone charges – whether you use your phone or not. Most people realize that international travel means additional roaming fees.  Did you know that traveling to Alaska or crossing from New York into Niagara Falls, Canada for a day trip is often considered international travel and will incur extra phone and data fees?  I learned this the hard way!  Contact your cell provider to sign up for international calling and data plans if you are traveling outside of the 48 contiguous states or going on a cruise. Most providers have a variety of travel packages including international day passes, Mexico and Canada plans and cruise packages.

8. Set up your regular, recurring bills to be paid online while you are away. I’ve seen people take their bills with them on vacation and then spend time looking for a mailbox along the way – don’t do this! Online banking is free and easy, so use it.

9. Put your mail on vacation hold a few weeks before your date of departure.

10. Arrange to have a trusted neighbor keep an eye on your home.

A little bit of planning can go a long way toward having a great vacation.  Happy travels!